MLK Day Monday numbers: The battle to preserve American democracy

By: - January 17, 2022 6:00 am

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo: Nobel Foundation)

In the decades since it became a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day has served as a vehicle to lift up a number of causes that Dr. King himself championed – from racial equality to ending poverty to world peace.

Today, however, as we mark what would have been MLK’s 93rd birthday, events have rendered all those causes (and many others of great import) secondary to an overriding imperative: the preservation of our democracy.

Since last January’s attempted coup in the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, forces of the political right have doubled down on that treachery by working relentlessly to disenfranchise voters and rig elections through extreme partisan gerrymandering.

This simply cannot be allowed to stand.

All that King fought for – indeed all that our nation has long stood for – is in jeopardy unless Congress acts immediately to secure voting rights and fair elections by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

As King’s children recently and eloquently stated, there can and should be no real “celebration” of the holiday without the passage of this legislation.

Tragically, at this point, the near-term prospects for both bills look dim. Thanks to the stubborn, shortsighted, and maddening opposition of a pair of conservative Democratic senators – Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – Republicans are able prevent a vote on the legislation and protect efforts at the state level to advance the Trumpist agenda of voter suppression and gerrymandering.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo: Nobel Foundation)

Thankfully, however, all is not lost in this battle. As the Ohio Supreme Court reminded us last week by striking down a collection of grotesquely gerrymandered legislative maps, courageous judges and other officials still retain the power in many states to frustrate the right’s anti-democracy agenda – and that cause can only be aided by a loud and sustained grassroots movement.

To this end, it’s hoped that the following numbers will help inspire advocates and activists to action by illustrating the gravity of the crisis that currently plagues American democracy.

377 – number of days since forces loyal to former President Donald Trump undertook an unprecedented and deadly insurrection in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election

750+ – number of people thus far criminally charged for their participation in that event (Source: Business Insider)

0 – of the six states in which Donald Trump and his supporters claimed election fraud wrongfully tilted the election to Joe Biden, the number in which such claims have been validated (Source: AP analysis as reported by PBS)

Less than 475 – of the more than 25 million votes cast in those six states, the number of potential instances of fraud (Ibid.)

More than 440 – number of bills introduced in state legislatures in 2021 (most by politicians of the right who echoed Trump’s false claims) with provisions designed to restrict access to voting (Source: Brennan Center for Justice, “Voting Laws Roundup: December 2021”)

49 – number of states covered by those bills (Ibid.)

At least 19 – number of states that passed new laws to restrict access to voting in 2021 (Ibid.)

34 – number of such laws those states enacted (Ibid.)

6 – number of states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin) in which partisan state legislators have empowered other partisan actors who are not part of the election administration process to access and review ballots and other materials from the 2020 elections (Ibid.)

5 – number of additional states (Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Tennessee) in which legislators have introduced bills to initiate or allow similar partisan reviews of election results (Ibid.)

42 – number of states that lack a truly independent redistricting commission, thereby allowing politicians to have complete or outsized control of the process and the ability to gerrymander congressional and legislative maps (Source: Common Cause)

71 – percentage of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats that Republicans could win with 48% of the vote under maps adopted by the general Assembly and currently under review before the state Supreme Court (Source: Brennan Center for Justice, “Partisan Gerrymandering Is Rampant this Cycle. Congress Needs to Act”)

20+ – number of provisions in the Freedom to Vote Act that would, among other things, expand opportunities to vote, thwart voter suppression, prevent election sabotage, reform redistricting and end partisan gerrymandering, modernize voter registration, reform campaign finance laws, and promote election security (Source: Brennan Center for Justice summary)

11 – number of states (including North Carolina) that required Justice Department pre-clearance for new election procedures under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act prior to the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision, for which it would be required again under the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (Source: John Lewis Voting Rights Act bill summary)

60 – number of ‘aye’ votes necessary to pass both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in the U.S. Senate absent reform of the Senate filibuster rule

51 – number of votes necessary to reform the filibuster rule so that the legislation could pass with a simple majority

49 – number of votes Democrats have to take this action without Sens. Sinema and Manchin

185 million – number of Americans represented by 50 Democratic senators (Source: NPR – “Democrats Increasingly Say American Democracy Is Sliding Toward Minority Rule”)

143 million – number represented by 50 Republican senators (Ibid.)

9 million – combined population of Sinema’s Arizona and Manchin’s West Virginia

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.