- Biden asked Harris to oversee the administration’s fight for voting rights.
- The Democratic National Committee will add $25 million to a voter education effort, ‘I Will Vote.’
WASHINGTON — In her first move as leader of the Biden administration’s efforts to bolster voting rights, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a $25 million Democratic Party investment into voting education and access on Thursday.
“This campaign is grounded in the firm belief that everyone’s vote matters. That your vote matters,” Harris said, referring to an expansion of the “I Will Vote” effort. She made the announcement at Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington and her alma mater.
Democrats intend to bolster voter education, voter protection, targeted voter registration and deployment of new technology to increase voter access.
Harris called the current national debate over voting rights “the fight of our lifetime,” connecting it to past struggles, stating there was a “continuum” between the efforts of reformers during the civil rights movement and today.
The vice president also promised to “assemble the largest voter protection team we have ever had to ensure that all Americans are going to vote” in her remarks.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the latest announcement was “a part of our ongoing effort to elevate this issue, to work with every lever of the federal government,” in expanding voting rights and access.
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Joining Harris was Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, who said the vice president was “all in” on the fight to protect voting rights.
“We are really excited to continue to do the thing that the DNC has done for so many years, and that is to protect the right of all voters,” Harrison said.
State efforts to change election law
The effort comes as Republican lawmakers in statehouses across the country have proposed, and enacted, a flurry of election security laws that opponents argue will lead to voter suppression and disenfranchisement of Democratic-leaning constituencies, including people of color, urban voters, college students and others.
Republicans argue the laws will cut down on widespread election fraud, though there is little evidence of that.
“We are fighting back,” Harris promised. “In states, we have successfully blocked some anti-voter bills from becoming law — and others are being challenged in court. In Congress, we are working to pass two bills into law that would protect and strengthen voting rights,” she said in her remarks.
Democratic lawmakers in states like Arizona, Georgia, Florida and Texas have furiously opposed the passing of election laws.
Voting rights bill blocked in Senate following heated debate
In a vote of 50-50, the voting rights bill fell short of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.
Associated Press, USA TODAY
In Texas, Democrats walked out of the state legislature in a successful bid to end proceedings ahead of the final vote on the bill. During their recess, a delegation ofthat state’s lawmakers later visited Washington to meet with top national Democrats in a plea for national action on voter education.
Republicans argue that Democratic efforts to stop the passage of the laws are out of step with public opinion on basic election policies.
“In a desperate effort to push their federal takeover of elections, Democrats continue to lie to the American people. Democrats refuse to join Republicans in supporting common-sense policies like voter ID, because their sole agenda is more power and partisan control,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement responding to Harris’ event.
Harris said that while the effort would be led by one party, she sees the issues as a nonpartisan issue.
“And again, I want to make clear that this is about all voters. It doesn’t matter to us if you are a Democrat or not,” she stressed.
“We want to help you vote, and we want to help make sure your vote is counted. Why? Well, because our democracy is strongest when everyone participates, and it is weaker when people are left out.”
Biden meets with civil rights leaders
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is slated to meet with civil rights leaders from across the country. The group of leaders will include:
- Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and convener, Black Women’s Roundtable
- Johnnetta Betsch Cole, chair and president, National Council of Negro Women
- Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- Damon Hewitt, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP
- Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League
- Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president, National Action Network
The meeting comes as advocacy groups argue the White House is not doing enough to push voting rights legislation in Congress or using the federal government’s abilities to expand voting access.
The Biden administration has so far taken some concrete steps on voting rights. With negotiations over voting rights legislation bogged down in Congress, the administration has redoubled its lobbying efforts on both the For the People Act, an expansive raft of election reform proposals, as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a modernized expansion of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In March, the president signed an executive order on voting rights directing the federal government to increase voter education efforts across all agencies, develop plans to expand voting access for Americans, bolster the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and update all online systems for voter registration.
Voting rights bills: Where do the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and For the People Act stand?
In June, the Justice Department sued the state of Georgia over its new voting rights law, alleging that the soon-to-be-enacted policies would disproportionately affect Black voters.
Democrats have also suffered setbacks in their efforts to combat recently enacted GOP laws. On July 1, the Supreme Court upheld an election reform law passed in Arizona which the DNC alleged would disenfranchise voters of color, a move Biden and other Democrats argued curtailed the Voting Rights Act.
“While this broad assault against voting rights is sadly not unprecedented, it is taking on new forms. It is no longer just about a fight over who gets to vote and making it easier for eligible voters to vote. It is about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all,” Biden said in a statement condemning the court’s decision.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.