Crystal Mason, a convicted felon on supervised release for tax fraud, cast a provisional ballot in Texas in the 2016 presidential election. According to Texas law, Mason was ineligible to vote but she did so anyway based on the advice of a poll worker. Like most provisional ballots, Mason’s vote was not counted, and she made it clear that she did not intend to break the law. Yet, she was convicted for illegal voting and received a sentence of five years in prison.
As are many others in the State of Texa, Mason’s case, which is considered Ground Zero for civil and voting rights advocates, is but one example of the restrictive voting laws emerging there and throughout the U.S. For this reason, Martin Luther King III is mobilizing a national campaign on Jan. 17, the national holiday named in his father’s honor, to push for the Senate to pass the For the People Act (HR.1) and restore voter protections for all Americans.
“President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure,” said Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Drum Major Institute. “Like those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, we will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America.”
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech, and he said, “Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.” On Jan. 17, M.L. King III is also coming to Washington, D.C., to deliver a message. He intends to tell President Biden and the Republican members of the Senate to end the filibuster blocking the “For the People Act” from receiving a vote.
He will lead a massive contingency of voting rights advocates, including his wife Arndrea Waters King and daughter Yolanda Renee King across the newly-constructed Frederick Douglass Bridge and into Southeast to the avenue also named in honor of his father. On the way, he will convey that the day is not for celebrating but to call attention to the approximately 389 bills in 48 states introduced to restrict Americans’ freedom to vote.
Meanwhile, Crystal Mason awaits her appeal. She represents the significant numbers of Black women who helped Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris win the White House. She represents many ex-felons who have fought to restore their voting rights. And, she represents the cause for which voting rights advocates are fighting so hard – to ward off the discriminatory voting laws that disproportionately impact Black people and other people of color.
On this King holiday, they want to save our democracy.