Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden arrive to speak in support of changing the Senate filibuster rules that have stalled voting rights legislation, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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ATLANTA, Ga. — President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the cradle of the civil rights movement to publicly endorse their party’s proposed voting rights legislation and convince Americans why the filibuster needs changes. 

Under a crisp blue sky at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, Biden and Harris publicly endorsed The Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and changes to the Senate filibuster rule that’s been used by Republicans to logjam Democrats’ proposed legislation. 

What Do The Voting Right Bills Do? 

Should both bills pass: The Freedom to Vote Act guards US elections against voter suppression, partisan sabotage, gerrymandering, and dark money. While concurrently, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act modernizes the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and strengthens legal protections against discriminatory voting policies and practices. 

Meanwhile, Democrat senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are currently unsold on their party’s aim to change senate filibuster rules, putting them at odds with their party and countless Black Americans who fear their voting rights will continue being suppressed.

Why Are Voting Rights Under Threat?

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the U.S. “Supreme Court has hampered the civil rights law by gutting its pre-clearance provisions in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and by making it harder to sue to stop discriminatory practices in Brnovich v. DNC (2021).”

Moreover, since Biden and Harris took office in 2021, some 400-plus voter suppression bills have been introduced in 48 states.

Who Attended Biden & Harris’s Voter Rights Speech and Who Didn’t

Noticeably missing from Biden & Harris’s voting rights speech was Georgia’s powerhouse Democrat leader Stacey Abrams. A source told The Black Wall Street Times that Abrams had a scheduling conflict that prevented her from attending.

Ironically, it was Abrams and LaTosha Brown, founder of Black Voters Matter, and a number of other voting right organizers who helped deliver Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to The White House in 2020.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, Sen. Jon Ossoff, and Rep. Nikema Williams were all present. Civil rights icons Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson were both in attendance. Descendants of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were also present. Georgia voting rights activist and director of Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Helen Butler came to listen to Biden and Harris’s historic speech.

However, many Georgians feel POTUS and VPOTUS’s visit to Atlanta is meaningless without action.

Do Biden and Harris Have A Plan to Pass Voter Rights Protections? 

“Today, we call on Congress to get done what history will judge,” Biden said. “Pass the freedom to vote act,” adding, “Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect Americans’ right to vote.”

In his speech, Biden called Republican efforts to limit voting access “Jim Crow 2.0.”

“The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.

Nevertheless, neither Biden nor Harris presented a plan during their speeches should Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona refuse to vote for changes to filibuster rules.

And Republicans are planning to block both The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Moreover, all Republicans are against changes to the filibuster, in addition to the two Senate Democrats. 

How Voter Suppression Affects Black Americans

Disenfranchisement laws prevent 1 in 16 Black Americans from voting. Moreover, counties with a significantly higher percentage of Black voters have fewer polling places and fewer poll workers. The number of Black Americans unable to get off work during election day in 2018 was almost twice that of whites.

Black citizens are less likely to carry Government-issued photo identification. Compared to white citizens of voting age, upwards of 25-percent of African-Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID.

“When attempting to vote, citizens face several challenges, including strict absentee requirements, limited polling place access, and overall lack of voter education,” President of Spelman’s SGA, Jillian Jackson said. “People wait hours in line to cast their civic duty to sometimes find that they are unable to place their vote because of technicalities,” she added.

Earlier in the Day

Soon after arriving on Air Force One in Atlanta, President Biden visited the resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., laying a wreath at his tomb. The last presidents to do so were George W. Bush in 2004, followed by then, US Illinois Senator Barack Obama in 2008. 

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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