Indian American VP to engage the public, voting rights groups, community organizations and private sector.
Adding a complex issue to her growing portfolio, President Joe Biden has tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with leading his administration’s efforts to protect voting rights.
Biden made the announcement Tuesday during a speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 100 years after a deadly race massacre there in 1921.
The new role for the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father comes as the Biden administration condemns efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to pass restrictive laws the White House says make it harder for Americans to vote.
Calling the state bills an “unprecedented assault on our democracy,” Biden recognized that he was handing Harris a tough job.
“To signify the importance of our efforts, today I’m asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts and lead them among her many other responsibilities,” Biden said. “With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.”
In a subsequent statement, Harris said she would engage the public, voting rights groups, community organizations and the private sector “to help strengthen and uplift efforts on voting rights.”
She noted nearly 400 bills have been introduced at the state level since the 2020 election to make it more difficult for some Americans to vote.
“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,” Harris said. “This is the work of democracy.”
“Every American has a right to have their voice heard at the ballot box, and no American should be kept from voting early, voting by mail, or voting at all,” she said. “Our democracy is strongest when everyone participates, and it is weaker when people are left out.”
“Throughout the arc of our nation’s history, many have worked—and many have died—to ensure that all Americans can cast a ballot and have their vote counted,” Harris said. “Today, that hard-won progress is under assault.”
“In the last election, more people voted than ever before. Since then, more than 380 bills have been introduced across the country that would make it harder for Americans to vote,” she noted.
Harris said these bills seek to restrict the options that make voting more convenient and accessible, including early voting and vote by mail.
“Our Administration will not stand by when confronted with any effort that keeps Americans from voting,” Harris said vowing to “protect the fundamental right to vote for all Americans regardless of where they live.”
Harris said the administration will also work with members of Congress to help advance “two important bills in Congress that would do just that.”
The For the People Act would provide all Americans with fair and accessible voting options, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would prevent discriminatory changes to voting laws and procedures, she said.
Harris, a former state attorney general, has worked on voting rights issues before and expressed interest in the subject, Politico noted. In May, Harris held a meeting with voting and civil rights leaders to discuss “the critical importance of protecting the right to vote.”
In his speech, Biden said he’d “fight like heck” to get the two bills passed, saying June should be a “month of action.”
But there are clear impediments that Harris now faces in producing that action, Politico said noting “The For The People Act does not have the support of all Democrats in the Senate.”
READ: Indian Americans recorded highest rate of voting in 2020 (May 20, 2021)