Voting Rights Groups Press Biden on Response to GOP Laws
Dozens of groups criticized what they see as a misguided White House strategy that focuses on organizing instead of federal legislation.,
Voting rights groups press for a more aggressive response to G.O.P. restrictions.
Voting rights activists gathered for a rally at the Capitol on Monday.Credit…Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press
Aug. 3, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET
Dozens of voting rights groups and left-leaning get-out-the-vote organizations said on Tuesday that they were sending a letter to the Biden administration demanding more aggressive action to pass federal voting legislation. The letter also criticizes what the groups perceive as a misguided White House strategy that puts too much emphasis on organizing — the grass-roots work of registering, educating and turning out voters — to combat dozens of new voting restrictions passed by Republicans across the country this year.
“Some may think we can overcome these unwarranted barriers to the ballot box by just increasing our organizing efforts,” the letter says. “We write to tell you unequivocally that that is simply not true.”
The letter is the latest evidence of growing frustration between voting rights groups and the White House. The organizations and their allies have called for more public urgency from Mr. Biden, while administration officials have been preaching patience, noting that Democrats face long odds in the Senate of passing any federal voting legislation without overhauling the filibuster.
While the administration remains committed to finding a way to pass a federal voting law, it has simultaneously been pushing voter registration, education and get-out-the-vote programs. It announced a $25 million investment in organizing efforts last month.
But these moves have led to tension with voting rights groups, especially after voting rights advocates said that they had been told by some top Biden allies that it was possible to “out-organize voter suppression.”
“Given the scale of the attack, I think it’s not for the president to say that he’s looking for bipartisan solutions when clearly there’s one political party that is actively undermining democracy and minimizing insurrection,” said Andrea Mercado, an executive director of Florida Rising, a progressive group. “Measures like ending the filibuster do need to be taken to protect voting rights.”
For its part, the Biden administration has been ramping up its pressure on Congress to find a path forward for a federal voting law. The president met last week with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, to try to map out the next steps, and Democratic senators have been drafting a compromise bill they plan to introduce in the coming weeks.
The letter on Tuesday was signed by more than 49 state-level organizations, including the New Georgia Project Action Fund, LUCHA Arizona and Detroit Action, as well as some national organizations like Black Voters Matter Fund. The groups said they had knocked on tens of millions of doors during the 2020 campaign in battleground states like Georgia, Arizona and Florida, playing a key part in the grass-roots organizing efforts that helped elect Mr. Biden and allowed Democrats to take back the Senate.
But despite their success last year, the organizations said in their letter, “our organizing capacity is not unlimited.”
“We are facing a rising tide of voter suppression unlike anything we have seen,” the letter states. “While grass-roots efforts remain critical to ensuring fair and representative elections, so too is federal legislation to protect and preserve the rights of the constituencies we serve.”