Fighting for Voting Rights is How We Honor Dr. King’s Legacy
By Jorge L. Vasquez, Jr., Program Director, Power and Democracy
until every eligible voter has equal access to the polls and every voting age citizen is eligible to vote without unnecessary and unwarranted interference, there will always be citizens who, as Dr. King coined, “cannot live as a democratic citizen.”
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind—it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact—I can only submit to the edict of others.” This statement, made by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nearly 64 years ago, still rings true today.
As we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Power and Democracy Program at Advancement Project National Office is reminded of the importance of ensuring all voting age citizens are eligible to vote and have access to the ballot. As a nonpartisan racial justice organization committed to empowering Black, Brown, Native, Asian, Immigrant, and underrepresented communities, we honor Dr. King’s legacy by fighting to advance access to the polls, rights restoration, fair redistricting maps and more. We call upon local, state, and federal elected officials to work in unity to strengthen voting rights for all eligible voters.
For far too long, advancing democracy initiatives, including voting rights, has been viewed as a partisan issue with one side of the aisle alleging the other is attempting to dilute their constituents’ voice. Both Republicans and Democrats have been accused of manipulating the electoral system for party gain. This is precisely why we are committed to working with grassroots organizations and local groups to build power, self-determination, and provide access to political power.
Just like during the Civil Rights Movement, countless Black citizens and other diverse groups have protested and marched for the opportunity to be seen, heard, and treated equally by the government. America is more diverse now than ever, and diversity among voting blocs continues to expand. The 2020 Election marked the first time that nearly one third of all eligible voters were Black, Brown, or Asian. Additionally, about 10 percent of all eligible voters were naturalized citizens. As such, it is imperative that each of us join to ensure that every citizen has the space to “make up their own mind” and not “submit to the edict of others,” as Dr. King stated.
The fundamental foundation of a democratic republic, like the one in the United States, is that its citizens determine who is elected to office by casting their ballots. However, until every eligible voter has equal access to the polls and every voting age citizen is eligible to vote without unnecessary and unwarranted interference, there will always be citizens who, as Dr. King coined, “cannot live as a democratic citizen.” If we are to truly be the democratic republic that we model to the world, legislators must act immediately to guarantee democracy can be realized by all.
The time for bipartisan efforts to safeguard access to democracy is upon us and Advancement Project National Office will remain committed to the fight until equal access is realized by all citizens.
Jorge L. Vasquez, Jr. is the Program Director for Power and Democracy. In this role, Jorge leads Advancement Project National Office’s voter protection, redistricting, rights restoration, and democracy initiatives. He has been recognized for his work as a national civil rights lawyer, policy influencer, and democracy expert.