Vice President Kamala Harris takes voting rights fight on the road

Exclusive: Vice President Harris met with Texas state legislators this week as one of her efforts to push passage of critical voting rights bills proposed by Democrats

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Vice President Kamala Harris met with Texas state legislators on Wednesday as one of her efforts to push for the passage of voting rights legislation on Capitol Hill. 

Vice President Harris, theGrio.com
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks while meeting with Democratic members of the Texas Legislature in the Roosevelt Room of the White House June 16, 2021 in Washington DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Two bills that have been the focus of the movement have widespread support in the House but are stalled in Senate negotiations — the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. At the moment both bills address the practice of voting and preclearance.

In recent weeks, one of the obstacles to the bill’s passage has been Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. After weeks of meetings and talks with civil rights leaders and church organizations, there are now reports by NBC News that suggest Manchin is open to a compromise on voting legislation.   

Pastor Jamal Bryant of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was part of a group of faith-based leaders who were slated to meet with the vice president on Wednesday following her meeting with the Texas delegation. Due to the meeting with Texas lawmakers running overtime, White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond courted the faith leaders, which included Bishop Reggie Jackson, Lee May of DeKalb Ministers Alliance, Timothy McDonald of Concerned Black Clergy, Barbara Skinner of the African American Clergy Network.

Jamal Bryant, theGrio.com
Jamal Bryant speaks during the 2021 King Holiday Observance Beloved Community Commemorative Service on January 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Bryant is slated to meet with Vice President Harris on Friday during her trip to Georgia to continue the White House dialogue on voting rights.

Manchin supported the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but not the For the People Act, which seeks to reform campaign finance laws and ethics in elections. Since facing a mountain of pressure, he has begun to signal favor of a combination of the bills or changes to both that include voter identification measures such as the use of driver’s licenses, state ID, and utility bills to verify a person’s identity at the polls. 

In the 1965 Voting Rights Act, pre-clearance was the teeth of the legislation but was later gutted by the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision in 2013.

In the original Voting Rights Act, pre-clearance required states designated with a legacy of discrimination to report to the Justice Department for approval of any planned changes to their voting rules and laws. 

White House officials told theGrio on Wednesday that the Biden-Harris administration supports restoring preclearance “for certain states that have a history of voting discrimination.” However, the officials acknowledged that might not be an overall solution since “the states that already have the laws in effect now, they are not subject to preclearance.” Many of these states now have restrictive voting laws in place —  for instance, Georgia, Florida and Texas. 

White House
The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House on March 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The problem is that more states are expected to sign new restrictive voting laws potentially making the preclearance portions of the new federal laws moot. 

The White House is hopeful coalitions will join in this fight. The coalitions that the administration is looking to support its efforts are not just civil rights groups but also those advocating for the disabled community.

Senior officials in the vice president’s office explained that people with disabilities are impacted as well by these new restrictive voting laws.

Vice President Kamala Harris is planning on traveling to Georgia on Friday to bolster vaccination numbers to meet the president’s 70% goal for total vaccinated Americans by July 4. 

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