Martin Luther King III, son of Martin Luther King Jr., said voters have no choice but to mobilize against politicians who vote for voter identification laws.
“Many gave their lives to ensure this precious vote,” King said Tuesday on PoliticsNation. Democracy is “not about one party or ethnic group; it’s about everyone having the right to vote.”
Voter identification laws, which exist in some form in 17 states to date, could suppress 5 million votes in the upcoming presidential election, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice. That number, they note, is larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
King and Sharpton, who broadcast on Tuesday from Atlanta, Georgia, have organized a voter engagement drive in the city to counteract the effects of Georgia's voter ID laws. The drive aims to educate voters on the changed laws, as well as register new voters. Sharpton's organization, the National Action Network, is touring the country and hosting voter engagement drives in states affected by the ID laws.
On Tuesday, Attorney Generic Eric Holder called the laws “poll taxes,” straying from his prepared remarks and referring to laws in some Southern states which disenfranchised black voters shortly after slavery was abolished. The 24th Amendment to the Constitution outlawed such taxes. At a speech before the NAACP in Houston, Holder said the Justice Department “will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”
“You would hate to think that any of our elected officials would want to keep people from voting, but it appears that there’s a movement to do that,” King said.
One Pennsylvania legislator recently admitted to the real goal behind voter ID laws: skewing elections towards Republican candidates. Democrats have strongly criticized the rules, which disproportionately affect minorities and students. In Texas, black people are three times more likely than white people to not have the appropriate identification to vote. Holder is currently challenging Texas' ID laws in court.
PoliticsNation host Rev. Al Sharpton has stressed the lack of evidence that voter fraud, which ID laws purport to prevent, is anything but extremely rare. One recent report found that UFO sightings are significantly more common than credible voter fraud.
King advocated mobilizing voters to stand up against the law, but said that, in the long term, it's about voting for the right politicians. “We have to mobilize ... so that those we elect preserve the voices of the people.”