WASHINGTON (AP) – Amid mounting complaints from civil rights activists and other Democrats that the White House has not done enough to counter the Republicans, the Biden administration, in the face of a call to “save American democracy,” has renewed efforts to protect the Access to Voting Announced – Leading state legislators are trying to restrict voting procedures.
President Joe Biden met with civil rights leaders in the west wing on Thursday while Vice President Kamala Harris announced $ 25 million of new Democratic National Committee spending on voting rights protection prior to the 2022 midterm elections.
Biden and his team emphasize the ongoing legal efforts to protect voting rights. They also promised a big bump in law after the Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping election revision bill last month. The president has told reporters that he intends to “speak extensively about voting rights” and that he “would take to the streets on the matter.”
On Friday, the White House announced that Biden would travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday to discuss “measures to protect sacred, constitutional suffrage.”
In his own party there is growing frustration that GOP actions in voting are seen as an existential threat to both Democrats and democracy.
Pressure only increased after a Supreme Court ruling restricted minorities’ ability to challenge state laws that Democrats believe are discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. Biden has brought in outside lawyers for meetings at the White House and consulted advisers on the best strategy to combat new laws.
“We will leave no stone unturned to save American democracy,” said Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League, when he stood with Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights activists after Thursday’s meeting. “This is an attack on a very fundamental asset that underlies this country. When we look at what is happening in this nation, we see an attempt to impose a system, American apartheid. “
During the meeting, Biden and Harris assured civil rights activists that they would urge Congress to pass electoral laws while doing everything in their power to ensure full voter participation in the election, a summary by the white said House.
Harris’ speech this Thursday, tasked with directing the government’s response to voting questions, was to be her first in a row.
“This campaign is built on the firm belief that everyone’s voice counts – that your vote counts,” said Harris. “We want to help ensure that your vote is counted, because our democracy is strongest when everyone participates.”
Several states passed new electoral laws, and others are debating it, after Republicans used former President Donald Trump’s false claim of massive fraud in the 2020 election as a pretext for passing new laws restricting access to voting.
Democrats have grown nervous that the new laws could reduce turnout in next year’s mid-term election as the party seeks to keep very tight margins in both houses of Congress.
“Folks, it’s never too early to defend your rights,” said Harris. “With these new laws being passed or trying, we have to start getting strong now.”
However, some Democrats and voting rights activists believe the White House didn’t start nearly soon enough.
“We have our backs to the wall. That’s the moment. We’re running out of time, ”said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “I told the President: we will not be able to challenge ourselves from this threat to black citizenship.”
“We have to get the president to use his vote,” said Ifill.
The Democrats on Capitol Hill were already trying to respond with comprehensive voting and electoral law. But the Republicans in the Senate have come together to block it. Most Republicans have similarly opposed a separate bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore parts of the voting rights law previously weakened by the Supreme Court.
The stalemate has increased the focus on the Senate filibuster who, if left in place, would be an insurmountable barrier to sweeping voting laws in Congress. With Republicans unanimously in opposition, removing or changing the filibuster would require two bills to remain on the table to stand a chance of passage. Moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona have so far expressed their reluctance to change Senate rules to protect filibusters.
Although the west wing has not given up hope of a legislative breakthrough, it has shifted focus to other measures to protect the voice, including legal action by the Department of Justice and in individual states, officials said. There will also be a focus on increasing voter turnout, with aides pointing to the Democrats’ successes in voter turnout last year during the height of the pandemic.
Biden believes “voting is a fundamental right for the American people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week. “He will use every lever at his disposal to campaign for it.”
However, officials acknowledge that in a year without a presidential election, it is increasingly difficult to get voters. Some frustrated aides, seeing the deadlock in the Senate, believe that too much focus has been placed on federal legislative action. They believe citizen and business groups can also play a role in tackling election restrictions, and note that an outcry in Georgia has helped water down some of the GOP’s proposed plans.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling last week upheld the Arizona voting restrictions that a lower court found discriminatory under federal electoral law. It was the second major Supreme Court decision in eight years that civil rights groups and liberal dissenting judges say they weakened the civil rights-era law aimed at eliminating discrimination in voting.
Despite the lack of evidence of fraud, many Republicans continue to question the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Republican elected officials in a number of states have responded by imposing restrictions on early voting and submitted ballots, as well as stricter voter identification laws, which has led some Liberals to demand more from Biden.
“We have passed the point where we have lost faith that he will do it on his own,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund. “Where’s your voting tour? People have already started shouting this out. That will only escalate. “
Lemire reported from New York.
Corrected this story to show that the National Urban League President’s last name is Morial, not Murial.
Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller, and Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press