Newswire: More than 800 faith leaders demand Biden, Senate pass Voting Rights Bill

Martin Luther King III gives remarks during the NNPA’s Legacy Awards Gala at the National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. on June 23, 2017. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

Rev. Martin Luther King III

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and more than 800 faith leaders from various religions are demanding that President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats immediately push through voting rights legislation.

“We cannot be clearer: you must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored,” the faith leaders wrote in the letter released on Thursday, December 23, 2021.

“Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress,” they wrote.

In addition to Sharpton and King, those signing the letter included a mix of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith leaders. Rev. Aaron Frank of Horseheads, New York, Rabbi Abby Cohen of Portland, Oregon, Rabbi Abby Michaleski of the Beth Israel Congregation, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi of Bethesda, Maryland, Rabbi Abram Goodstein of the Congregation Beth Sholom, and Rev. Adam Russell Taylor.

King and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, organized the leaders and wrote the letter. The African American Christian Clergy Coalition joined them, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and Faith in Public Life, and others joined.

The Congressional Black Caucus has pushed legislation, including two voting rights bills blocked by the GOP.

“This year, American democracy faced extraordinary challenges, from the violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol to over 30 anti-voting bills pushed through state legislatures, intentionally designed to silence Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant, low-income, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and elderly and young voters,” the faith leaders wrote.

“During this season of giving and community, we are painfully aware that the promise of American democracy is thwarted by systemic racism and a system that works for the few at the expense of the public good.”

The letter continued: “It will continue on this path without prompt, substantive federal action. During the Civil Rights era, prominent leaders were driven by their faith to fight for equality. This is why we continue the push for voting rights today – our faith teaches us that each one of us deserves dignity and freedom.

“We cannot be clearer: you must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored. Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress.

“Nothing – including the filibuster – should stand in the way of passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which have already passed the House and await Senate action and leadership.

“The communities we represent will continue to sound the alarm until these bills are passed. While we come from different faiths, we are united by our commitment to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.

“On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, we will accompany Martin Luther King III, Arndrea King, Yolanda Renee King, and voting rights advocates across the country to honor Dr. King’s legacy by calling for Congress and the President to restore and expand access to the ballot for all voters. It’s time to stop lamenting the state of our democracy and take action to address it.

“As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so valiantly said in his Give Us The Ballot address, “the denial of this sacred right [to vote] is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.”

“That is why this Martin Luther King Day, we will not accept empty promises. Congress must serve the nation and future generations by immediately passing voting rights legislation.”

Racial split defines MD.’s hotly contested Democratic Senate primary

By Rachel Weiner and Scott Clement , Washington Post

Edwards and Van Hollend

Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen

Maryland’s Democratic Senate race remains very much up for grabs three weeks before the primary, with voters sharply divided along racial lines, according to a new poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland. The rare open Senate seat, being vacated by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) after 30 years, has sparked a heated and expensive battle between Reps. Donna F. Edwards and Chris Van Hollen. Edwards is trying to appeal to voters by emphasizing her inspiring personal story as a black single mother with an activist history. Her rival has responded with a bunch of endorsements from public office¬holders and a relentless focus on his legislative record.
Faced with that choice, African American and white voters appear deeply split. Among all likely Democratic primary voters, Edwards leads Van Hollen by a statistically insignificant 44 percent to 40 percent. But likely black voters favor Edwards by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. More than twice as many white voters support Van Hollen as back Edwards.
While Edwards also leads among women, that split has racial underpinnings as well, according to the survey, which was conducted in partnership with U-Md.’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship. Van Hollen leads by 23 percentage points among white women. But that preference is quickly erased by Edwards’s 51-point lead with black women, many of whom seem drawn by her argument that she is best suited to understand their needs and fight for those needs in an overwhelmingly white, mostly male U.S. Senate.
“Women get short¬changed a lot,” said Edwards supporter Jacqui Battle, 59, a black mother of two in Prince George’s County. “It means a lot that she’s where she is, at the level she is, in her career.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and several other black elected officials from Edwards’s home county have endorsed Van Hollen — an advantage he touts at every opportunity. But Edwards still leads in Prince George’s by 59 points. (Van Hollen is nearly as highly favored in his home of Montgomery County.)
And despite extensive television ad campaigns and scores of visits and appearances, neither candidate holds a clear advantage in the Baltimore area, encompassing both the largely African American city and the whiter surrounding suburbs.
Both Edwards and Van Hollen frequently invoke Mikulski, a revered figure both nationally and locally, and the first female Democrat elected to the Senate in her own right.
Edwards notes that she, too, would make history as Maryland’s first black senator and the second female black senator. Van Hollen argues that he, like Mikulski, is a constituent-oriented and savvy politician.