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Harris joins DNC to announce expansion of "I Will Vote" campaign

Harris on expansion of "I Will Vote" campaign
Kamala Harris joins DNC to announce expansion of "I Will Vote" campaign 14:38

President Biden and Vice President Harris held private and public events on Thursday to highlight their administration's push to expand voting rights. The events are occurring as efforts to expand voting rights have sputtered in Congress

Harris announced a $25 million investment into expanding the Democratic National Committee's "I Will Vote Campaign" during remarks at her alma mater, Howard University. 

"This campaign is grounded in the firm belief that everyone's vote matters," Harris said. 

According to the vice president, the funds will be used to boost voter registration, help educate voters on some of the state laws being considered and passed by Republican-led state legislatures and mobilize voters in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. Harris also said the DNC would assemble the "largest voter protection team we have ever had."

"This is the fight of our lifetime. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. We will always remember our history." Harris said. "We also understand their legacy and that we are part of that. And in that way, there is a continuum. So, I say in that context, this is the fight of our nation's lifetime."

Harris, however, did not elaborate on whether certain states would be prioritized in distributing funds.

The president met with leaders of national civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the National Action Network, the National Urban League and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to discuss how his administration and Democrats nationwide are pushing to preserve voting rights for minorities, according to people familiar with the scheduled meeting. 

National Action Network president Reverend Al Sharpton told reporters after the meeting that it was a "powerful discussion" that was "candid" and "no holds barred." Sharpton said he and other civil rights leaders told Mr. Biden and members of his administration that this will be a "summer of action," including protests and other calls to action. 

NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill said the meeting was "called" by the White House. Ifill said NAACP and other civil rights organizations fighting "voter suppression laws" in Georgia and Florida, but she said she "told the president, we will not be able to litigate our way out of this threat to black citizenship voting and political participation. We need legislation."

NAACP president Derrick Johnson was expected to participate virtually, according to aides.

"I look forward to a robust and productive conversation with President Biden," Johnson said in a statement. "Democracy is under attack in states across the nation, and we must act with great urgency to protect the American people's most fundamental and sacred right, the right to vote."

Mr. Biden's meeting with civil rights leaders is part of a campaign promise to meet quarterly with them to discuss civil rights and related matters, a person familiar with the early planning for the meetings told CBS News. Thursday's meeting is designed specifically to "update and let them know we're in the game on voting," said this person, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the events.

The White House is "trying to give some relief to the pressure out there about getting a bill" passed, the person added. The events are designed to encourage "yelling about places where there is agreement among Democrats and whispering about the disagreements."

In a statement prior to the meeting, the Republican National Committee said, "In a desperate effort to push their federal takeover of elections, Democrats continue to lie to the American people. Democrats refuse to join Republicans in supporting common-sense policies like voter ID, because their sole agenda is more power and partisan control."

The public and private events come as Democrats are struggling to move forward with legislation designed to establish uniform national standards for elections and reverse recent changes enacted by GOP-controlled state legislatures. While voting rights legislation easily passed the Democratic-controlled House earlier this year, it has stalled in the Senate amid GOP and some Democratic opposition. Other proposals are set for votes in the House, but not until the fall, at the earliest, while bipartisan talks in the Senate on a potential legislative solution have not progressed so far.

The Biden administration has also filed suit against Georgia and is preparing to mount legal challenges to other states for recently passed GOP-backed legislation to revamp voting laws, including changes to absentee ballots; early voting; and the use of ballot drop boxes. 

News of the events was first reported by CNN

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