Denver's annual Martin Luther King Jr. "Marade" returned Monday with a spotlight on voting rights
As Democrats in Congress struggle to get enough votes to pass new federal voter protections, Denver's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day "Marade" - a hybrid march and parade - saw strong turnout yesterday.
The pandemic forced last year's event to go virtual. Denver resident Darrel White said it's time for Congress to push back against what he sees as moves by Republican state legislatures to restrict voter access.
"I think they're trying to stop Black people from voting," said White. "The little towns, they can't vote because they can't even get to where the vote is. This is America, and we all should be able to vote."
Fueled by President Donald Trump's disproven claims that the 2020 elections were stolen, more than 30 laws recently passed by Republican-led legislatures in at least 17 states are set to take effect before this year's midterm elections.
Republicans maintain that limiting vote by mail and ballot dropoff locations, allowing state legislators to oversee results and other measures, are necessary to prevent fraud in future elections.
Michael Himelstein is a digital marketer who attended the Marade. He said he believes state-level voting measures that restrict access should be trumped by federal legislation that makes it easier for all Americans to vote, including making elections a federal holiday.
He said he also does not agree with claims of widespread voting fraud in 2020.
"They should show the data that proves that there is fraud going on," said Himelstein. "Right now, there is no proof of any fraud. And for the very small cases of fraud, it's nowhere near enough to swing an election."
On Monday, President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass two measures aiming to increase access to the ballot box and protect election officials from undue partisan influence. Octavia Franklin, a Denver mother of four, said restricting voter access will make it harder to address ongoing challenges facing communities of color.
"There's systemic problems, racism, within every aspect of our lives," said Franklin. "Within businesses, there's still a little bit of redlining here in the state of Colorado."
This story was written in partnership with Public News Service, through a collaboration powered by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative — a nonprofit formed to strengthen local public-service journalism in Colorado. KSUT joined this historic collaboration with more than 40 news organizations to share in-depth local reporting to better serve Coloradans.