WASHINGTON – U.S. civil rights leaders emerged Thursday from a White House meeting with President Joe Biden vowing a “summer of activism” to battle new voting restrictions enacted in Republican-led states in recent months.
Vice President Kamala Harris also said Thursday that the Democratic Party would invest $25 million in voter registration and education efforts.
Harris, whom the president assigned to lead the administration’s efforts on voting rights, made the announcement at her alma mater, Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington.
Biden and Harris met with civil rights groups including the NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network to “discuss the fight to protect the constitutional right to vote,” the White House said in a statement.
“This will be a summer of activism, a summer of getting back in the streets, a summer of saying to the Senate and the Congress: ‘You may be going home, but it’s going to be warmer politically than you think,’ ” the Reverend Al Sharpton told reporters after the meeting.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said that the meeting was “encouraging” but that it was now up to Congress to act with urgency to pass legislation that protects the right to vote.
“Time is of the essence. We cannot forget that justice is an ongoing struggle, and democracy, an ongoing fight,” Johnson said.
Biden’s fellow Democrats have struggled along with civil rights groups to fight a spate of voting restrictions in states including Georgia and Florida that critics say are aimed at Black, Hispanic and younger voters, who have helped elect Democrats.
Republican state legislators say their new voting laws are designed to enhance election security, citing former President Donald Trump’s false claims that his November election defeat was the result of widespread fraud. Multiple courts, state election authorities and Trump’s own administration have rejected those claims.
Last month, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic-backed national election reform bill that would have expanded opportunities to vote before Election Day, made certain campaign contributions were more transparent and reformed the process for the drawing of congressional districts. Republicans said it violated states’ authority to set their own election laws.