As Republican-led efforts to place restrictions at the ballot box continue, a divide between President Joe Biden and voting rights activists is widening, according to the New York Times. Leaders of the voting rights movement are calling for Biden to back up his words with actions by passing two federal bills, however, they said they’ve been told to “out-organize” voter suppression instead.
In a letter dated July 22, a conglomerate of civil rights groups and voting rights advocacy organizations admonished Biden to stop handling the threat to voting rights with what they deem to be idle words.
“As you noted in your speech, our democracy is in peril. There is nothing more fundamental to American democracy than the freedom and right to vote,” the letter states. “As organizations dedicated to the protection of voting rights, we are just as troubled as you by the surge this year of state legislation restricting access to the franchise. … To fully protect against discrimination and guarantee voting rights for all Americans, Congress must pass the For the People Act.”
Leaders have called for the elimination of the filibuster to get that and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passed to combat many of the state-led initiatives that would make it harder to vote, specifically for Black and Latino citizens.
According to the Times’ sources, the Biden administration has said it doesn’t have the necessary support to be successful in passing voting rights legislation and would have a better chance if activists focus their efforts to “out-organize voter suppression.”
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“I have heard an emphasis on organizing,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a Times interview. Ifill, who met with Biden recently, added, “we cannot litigate our way out of this and we cannot organize our way out of this.”
White House advisers have denied saying they asked leaders to “out-organize voter suppression,” rather stating they said organizing was critical to their efforts.
“I think it’s very clear what he (Biden) said,” senior presidential adviser Ceric Richmond told the Times. “Which is: We’re going to have to meet this challenge in the courts, in the halls of Congress and in the streets.”
Voting rights activists said Biden and his administration’s approach is inadequate.
“The notion that some new coalition can be formed that would allow for greater efforts at organizing and voter turnout is perhaps a bit unrealistic,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We have already formed one of the most diverse and strongest coalitions in support of voting rights that ever existed. At the end of the day, that is inadequate to the challenge of the moment. We need federal legislation.”