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Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday marked the annual holiday honouring the late civil rights leader Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr by urging voting rights advocates to reject “normalcy” and “complacency” in the face of assaults on the right to vote and calling on senators to pass voting rights legislation that is currently stalled in the US Senate.
Speaking via live video link to a commemorative service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Ms Harris warned of “anti-voter laws” that could make it difficult for “as many as 55 million Americans to exercise their franchise or make it easier for GOP partisans “to interfere with our elections to get the outcomes they want and to discredit those they do not”.
“That is not how democracies work. We know the threat we face. We know that this assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American in every community, in every political party,” said Ms Harris, who added that the “entire nation” would “pay the price for generations to come” if Americans “stand idly by” in the face of GOP-backed voter suppression laws.
Referring to remarks President Joe Biden delivered in Atlanta last week, Ms Harris said it was “time for the United States Senate to do its job” by passing the Freedom to Vote John R Lewis Act, a mash-up of two Democratic-backed bills which the Senate will debate when it gavels back into session on Tuesday but will most likely not pass because the bill lacks support from the number of senators required to overcome a Republican filibuster and two Democratic senators have resisted calls to change senate rules to pass it with a 51-vote majority.
Ms Harris called the “landmark” legislation “the first real opportunity to secure the freedom to vote since the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act nearly a decade ago,” and urged the upper chamber to act to pass it and it to Mr Biden’s desk “now”.
“Today, we must not be complacent or complicit. We must not give up and we must not give in,” she said. “To truly honour the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote for freedom for all.”