Harris says White House backs 3 'days of action' on voting rights as she meets with advocates

The vice president is also going to Alabama to commemorate "Bloody Sunday."

February 27, 2024, 7:38 PM

Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday assembled voting rights leaders to reiterate the White House's support for the issue as she has taken a public role in advocating for several Democratic priorities -- on ballot access as well as abortion rights.

For the second time, Harris convened organizers described as being on the front lines of protecting voting rights and registering communities to vote, the White House said in a statement to ABC News.

The vice president and the approximately few dozen leaders met in a closed-door roundtable discussion in the Indian Treaty Room.

"We have seen those who would loudly attempt to interfere in the lawful votes of the American people and attempt to question the integrity of a fair and free election system," Harris said before the roundtable. "We have seen a rise in threats against poll workers. In fact, I met some recently in Georgia who had harrowing experiences in terms of how they were threatened, their well-being as well as their livelihood."

Underscoring her point, elsewhere on Tuesday, an Indiana man pleaded guilty to charges that he threatened to kill a Michigan election worker who had made public statements defending the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, the Justice Department said.

In her White House meeting, Harris laid out a four-point plan that the administration will initiate to try to bolster voters' rights.

The plan includes emailing instructions on how to register to vote to everyone enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare; allowing students to get paid through federal work study for helping people to register to vote and working as nonpartisan poll workers; implementing initiatives to protect election workers; and announcing three national “days of action” to promote voting.

PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris attends a meeting with voting rights leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building,  Feb. 27, 2024.
Vice President Kamala Harris attends a meeting with voting rights leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Feb. 27, 2024.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The three days will be Juneteenth, June 19, the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6 and National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 17, according to Harris.

The vice president also said she will be in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday in remembrance of "Bloody Sunday," when white law enforcement officers attacked Black voting rights marchers on March 7, 1965, at the height of the civil rights movement.

"Many of us will be in Selma on Sunday to commemorate Bloody Sunday to remember the great John Lewis and Amelia Boynton and so many others -- to issue a call, yet again, for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act," Harris said.

The mayor of Selma, James Perkins Jr., told ABC News that he welcomes the vice president coming to highlight the need for equal voting rights across the nation.

"I was 12 years old, March 7, 1965," Perkins said. "I saw adults crying. I smelled the tear gas in their hair and I saw men on horseback riding through GWC [George Washington Carver] Homes chasing people. And so I know the sacrifices that were made for people of color to get the right to vote in this nation."

President Joe Biden has for years pushed for lawmakers to implement major election and voting overhauls that supporters say would expand ballot access.

Opponents, including many Republicans, argue such legislation would let the federal government intrude on state authority.

While Biden and Harris, now in the early stages of their reelection campaign, have reiterated their support for voting rights, they have also faced some criticism in their party for not taking more aggressive steps.

At the same time, the Voting Rights Act has come under new legal scrutiny.

PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris speaks while meeting with Texas legislators in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2021
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks while meeting with Texas legislators in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2021. Texas House Democrats, after fleeing Austin to forestall passage there of a law that would put new voting restrictions in place, descended on Capitol Hill today to convince Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.
Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal appellate panel ruled in November that a key provision of the landmark law does not allow people outside the federal government to sue over alleged electoral discrimination based on race.

For decades, individual voters and civil rights groups have brought successful challenges under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, including last term at the Supreme Court, in a case about whether Alabama's congressional map was drawn to dilute the voting power of Black people. The justices sided with the plaintiffs.

Multiple civil rights organizations, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed an appeal of the ruling in December. It will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

The court's conservative-leaning majority has already sharply curtailed the act in a series of recent decisions to bring its enforcement in line with their interpretation of the law.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer, Alexander Mallin, Isabella Murray and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.