WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden has tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with leading the administration’s efforts to defend voting rights, declaring that with her leadership, Americans will again “overcome” efforts to reduce access to voting, as they have in the past and did during the 2020 election, which saw record turnout despite new voting restrictions.
It adds another high-profile fight to Harris’ fast-expanding portfolio, which includes addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, leading the National Space Council and working on expanding access to broadband internet.
In a statement, Harris said she plans to work with voting rights groups, community organizations and the private sector to strengthen voting rights, as well as push for passage of voting rights legislation on Capitol Hill.
“The work ahead of us is to make voting accessible to all American voters, and to make sure every vote is counted through a free, fair, and transparent process. This is the work of democracy,” she said.
Republican legislators in state capitols across the nation are pushing a wave of bills aimed at restricting access to the ballot box. While Republicans say the bills are aimed at preventing voter fraud, Democrats contend that the measures are aimed at undermining minority voting rights in particular.
Most recently, the Texas legislature moved closer to passing a bill that would reduce early voting hours, tighten voter identification requirements for absentee ballots and eliminate ballot drop boxes and drive-thru voting centers. The bill was blocked only when Texas Democrats walked off the House floor on Sunday night, but Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said he’ll order a special session to ultimately ensure its passage.
Notably, Biden has previously called a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of Georgia’s elections laws “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.” Among the changes, the new Georgia law requires a photo ID to vote absentee by mail, after more than 1.3 million Georgia voters used that option during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.
Biden addressed the federal voting rights legislation during an event marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, in which a white mob looted and burned Tulsa’s Greenwood district, which was known as “Black Wall Street.”
All reporting by Alexandra Jaffe and Lisa Mascaro. The Associated Press contributed to this report.