Harris uses democracy summit to call for passage of voting rights laws

Vice President Harris speaks at a signing ceremony for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, November 15, 2021.
Greg Nash

Vice President Harris on Thursday used the White House’s Summit for Democracy to call on Congress to pass voting rights legislation, decrying state-level laws that the administration views as restricting access to the ballot as a threat to American democracy.

Harris, in remarks to world leaders delivered from the White House complex, cited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and “anti-voter laws” passed by GOP legislatures as looming threats to democracy domestically.

“In our democracy and every democracy, a representative government is foundational, and the right to vote is fundamental,” Harris said. “And so, ensuring that every eligible American can access that right is a top priority for our administration, and an effort that I am proud to lead. We know that the right to vote cannot be taken for granted. At every turn it must be safe-guarded and strengthened.”

Harris noted the Department of Justice has sought to block voter suppression efforts, and she pointed to executive actions President Biden has taken to increase voter registration information and ensure equal access to the ballot. But she urged Congress to do its part by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“Today, as the world watches, the president and I reiterate our call for swift passage of these bills,” she said. “We know our work at home will make us stronger for the world. We also know that the strength of our democracy is tied to the strength of democracies worldwide.”

While Harris and President Biden have condemned both the insurrection and state-level laws that critics say restrict the right to vote, her comments on a global stage were notable as the administration pushes for congressional action. Biden’s own remarks focused more broadly on global threats to democracy.

Biden in June put Harris in charge of the administration’s efforts to push for voting rights protections, a topic she asked to lead. She has met with voting rights groups and lawmakers in the months since to discuss the issue.

But Democratic efforts have fallen flat in the Senate, where Republican senators have stonewalled attempts to pass voting rights legislation and some moderate Democrats have struggled to come to a consensus on the best path forward.

Activists have called for the Senate to abolish or at least alter the filibuster to allow for the passage of voting rights legislation, warning that a failure to do so will lead to further restrictions on access to the ballot should the GOP take control of both chambers after the 2022 midterms.

Tags Joe Biden John Lewis voting rights

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