Harris announces DNC will invest $25M in voting rights initiatives

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris announced Thursday that the Democratic National Committee will invest $25 million in various voting rights initiatives as several Republican-led states pass laws that restrict access to the ballot box.

“This campaign is grounded in the firm belief that everyone’s vote matters. That your vote matters,” Harris said to a crowd at Howard University, her alma mater and a historically Black college.

Harris was deputized to lead the White House’s effort on voting rights, another task in her growing domestic portfolio. Later Thursday, she will join President Biden in a meeting with leaders from civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League.

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on voting rights at the Louis Stokes Library of Howard University in Washington, DC on July 8, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris at Howard University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The DNC views its investment in the “I Will Vote” campaign as one of Democrats’ many levers to combat what they describe as “Republican voter suppression,” as several attempts to pass comprehensive reform have floundered on Capitol Hill.

Over the past few months, Democrats tried to codify voting protections through the For the People Act — a bill that sought to reform campaign finance and government ethics while expanding access to voting — but were thwarted by Senate Republicans in a party-line vote in late June. Many progressive lawmakers and voting rights advocates felt frustrated by what they viewed as the White House’s perceived inaction from the bully pulpit, though at the time, Harris told reporters that “the fight is not over.”

During her remarks Thursday, Harris detailed the ways in which Democrats plan to shoehorn their agenda through.

“We are fighting back,” she declared. “In states, we have successfully blocked some anti-voter bills from becoming law — and others are being challenged in court. In Congress, we are working to pass two bills into law that would protect and strengthen voting rights. And there is another important component of our work, and that is mobilizing to ensure Americans vote in the elections ahead.”

The DNC plans to amass the largest voter protection team ever assembled at the committee, who will advocate for voters at the state level and commit to educating voters on their rights in their particular state. According to a fact sheet provided by the DNC, the group plans to fund “the largest tech team” in the history of the organization and use data to target voters.

Demonstrators march during a Freedom Ride for Voting Rights rally in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Demonstrators at the “Freedom Ride for Voting Rights” rally in Washington, D.C., on June 26. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Democrats have been unable to notch a voting rights win as GOP legislators in Georgia, Arizona and Florida have successfully passed restrictions that Democrats believe unfairly target reliably Democratic voters, particularly urban and nonwhite ones.

Late last month the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against a new voting rights law in Georgia, an act that advocates hope the Biden administration won’t shy away from if other Republican-led states pass equally restrictive laws. Last week the Supreme Court upheld newly passed restrictions in Arizona, setting a worrying precedent for concerned organizers on the left. Still, the Biden administration is not letting up on its attempts to fight back.

Harris stressed Thursday that voting protection benefits are not just for members of her own party.

“I want to make clear that this is about all voters,” she said. “It doesn’t matter to us if you are a Democrat or not. We want to help you vote, and we want to help make sure your vote is counted. Why? Well, because our democracy is strongest when everyone participates, and it is weaker when people are left out.”

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