Vice President Kamala Harris is spending the week going after Republican attacks on voting access and speaking to audiences of Black Americans, one of the groups disproportionately affected by the wave of GOP-backed voting restrictions.
On Thursday, Harris visited her alma mater, Howard University, where she announced a $25 million expansion of the Democratic National Committee’s “I Will Vote” initiative ― a project that invests in improving voter education, voter protection, targeted voter registration and expanding technologies that make voting more accessible.
“In 2020, you were heard, America. You heard loud and clear,” she told an audience at the historically Black university. “But there is another side to the story. So far this year, 17 state legislatures have enacted 28 new laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. ... And that’s not to mention the nearly 400 bills that state legislators are attempting right now to pass.”
“This is designed, I believe, to make it harder for you to vote,” she continued, “so that you don’t vote.”
Harris’ remarks came the same day that Texas state lawmakers headed to the state capitol for a special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is pushing a highly restricting voting law. The bill, which Republicans failed to pass in May, would limit when early voting is allowed, ban drive-through voting, create new mail-in voting barriers, and make it a felony for a public official to send absentee ballot applications to voters who didn’t solicit them.
Harris also sat down for an interview with Soledad O’Brien that is slated to air on BET this Friday, emphasizing the need to start combatting the GOP’s efforts as soon as possible.
“Most of what you’re seeing in terms of attempts to suppress the vote are coming out of legislatures in southern states,” Harris said, adding that in states where “the legislature is hell bent on making it difficult for us to vote, we’re going to have to start rallying now to make sure we’re thinking creatively about how we register people to vote, how we remind them of what’s on the line.”
Asked by O’Brien about compromising on some issues with Republicans, such as voter ID laws, Harris said Americans should not “underestimate what that could mean,” pointing to the ways those laws may impact people in rural communities.
“There’s no Kinko’s. There’s no OfficeMax near them,” she said of certain proposals that would require voters to submit photocopies of their IDs.
“Of course, people have to prove who they are,” she continued, “but not in a way that makes it almost impossible for them to prove who they are.”
Ideas like this have come up recently because of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has suggested that he won’t vote to begin debate on the For The People Act — a sweeping voting rights, campaign finance, redistricting and ethics reform bill ― unless Democrats include a national voter ID provision in the package. His party, which has a razor thin majority in the Senate, cannot move forward on the bill without his support.
The wave of restrictive voting laws in Texas and elsewhere has come in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, including his repeated lie that victory was stolen from him.