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Lawmakers hope for new focus on voters rights

WASHINGTON -- Democratic lawmakers representing Long Island in Congress said they hope Saturday's 50th anniversary re-enactment of the 1963 March on Washington will inspire people to fight new restrictions on the right to vote.

"The march will remind people that the right to vote is sacred, that people have died for it, and that nefarious efforts to take it away must be stopped," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) through an aide.

The 1963 march demanded and helped win voting rights for black Americans in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required southern states and New York City to get federal approval for voting changes.

But the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down part of that law, and Texas, North Carolina and other states have moved to add restrictions, such as requiring photo IDs to vote. The Justice Department Thursday said it filed a lawsuit to challenge the new Texas law and join a local lawsuit challenging Texas' legislative redistricting.

A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called for Congress to pass a bill she sponsors to restore the Voting Rights Act, saying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "spoke of 'the fierce urgency of now'."

"This display of grass roots activism goes to the very heart of what our democracy is about ... ," said spokesman Glen Caplin.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), who represents part of Nassau County, said Saturday's march should encourage people to fight for voting rights.

"We have to make sure throughout the country that they know they need to get the vote out and not be denied," Meeks said in an interview.

Aides to Reps. Tim Bishop of Southampton, Steve Israel of Huntington and Carolyn McCarthy of Mineola echoed that view. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) didn't respond to a query.

Meeks said he will be at the march. The other Long Island lawmakers and senators have other commitments and will not attend, aides said.

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