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Black voters in South Carolina voice frustration with Biden's first year in office

Some say they’re disappointed, in particular, with the failure by Democrats to pass key voting rights legislation in the Senate.

Black voters in South Carolina helped reenergize Joe Biden's struggling presidential campaign during the 2020 primary, leading to his eventual victory. But now, one year into his term, some of those voters are expressing frustration that the president hasn’t delivered on all of his promises yet.

Many say they’re disappointed, in particular, with the failure by Democrats to pass key voting rights legislation in the Senate. The caucus on Wednesday night tried to advance two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but Republicans blocked their effort.

Helen Bradley, a retired community activist, said that she doesn’t think Biden has fought hard enough for the priorities of the Black community.

"I don't think he has done that and I'm hoping that he'll make a change. He has time to do it,” she said. “I don't think he's delivered on all the promises that he made.”

Tuesday Duckett, a single mom who works for the University of South Carolina, said that Biden has fulfilled his promises to Black voters only “partially.” Her message to Biden is to, “look deep, especially in our rural areas, because we are suffering and we do need them to come and make sure that we are getting what we needed and what we were promised as a community.”

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., whose endorsement played a pivotal role in Biden's South Carolina win, told NBC News that it’s “disrespectful” to expect that everything Biden laid out in his campaign is going to be completed in his first year in office.

Clyburn said Democrats have to do “what’s necessary” to make sure there isn’t a depressed turnout among Black voters in November’s midterm elections. There’s a message Democrats should highlight to their constituents, he said.

“You've got to focus on the glass being half full and tell people what we've done with that half and so that they will have faith and confidence that we will get the other half of glass done. If we keep talking about what we have not done, rather than what we have done. We deserve to be defeated at the polls,” Clyburn said.

Fletcher Smith, who was a Biden surrogate in the 2008 election cycle and again in 2020, said that Biden needs to do more to deliver on the promises he made to Black voters. He suggested that he do a “fireside chat” with the American people in a primetime setting. As NBC News reported on Monday, senior administration officials have said the White House is planning a new communications strategy, with Biden spending more time connecting with voters.

Smith said that while Biden has not done enough to improve voting rights, she praised his efforts to quash the Covid pandemic, to improve the economy and to ensure that Americans are protected both from domestic and foreign threats.

“But he's got to have a laser focus on the Voting Rights Act,” Smith said. “We have been there for Biden every step of the way. We will continue to be with him. But he needs to be with us walking side by side, not behind us.”

A new NBC News poll released Thursday found that Biden's approval rating among Black voters has declined from 83 percent to 64 percent during his first year in office.

At a press conference Wednesday, NBC News' Kristen Welker asked Biden about whether he’s done enough for the Black community.

“I've had their back. I've had their back my entire career. I've never not had their back. And I started on the voting rights issues long, long ago. That's what got me involved in politics in the first place,” he said.

Biden said part of the problem is that he hasn’t been visiting communities in person enough, which he said has been due to both Covid and trying to make progress with Congress.

“I'm sure there's people in labor saying, “Why haven't they been able to do A, B, C, or D?” he said. “So, it's just going to take a little bit of time.”

For more on this story, watch “NBC News with Lester Holt” tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET.