WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday announced a $25 million investment by the Democratic National Committee to support efforts to protect voting access ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
"With this $25 million, the Democrats are investing in the tools and technology to register voters, to educate voters, to turn out voters, to protect voters," Harris said in a speech Thursday afternoon at Howard University, the historically Black institution in Washington, D.C., where she attended college.
"People say, 'What’s the strategy?' Well, I just outlined it," she said.
The announcement comes as Republican-controlled states around the country have passed a wave of restrictive voting rights laws fueled in part by former President Donald Trump's false claims about the results of the 2020 election and as the Supreme Court voted last week to uphold restrictive voting laws in Arizona.
President Joe Biden has been criticized by some Democrats and civil rights advocates for not taking a more aggressive approach to fighting those new laws after Senate Republicans blocked voting rights legislation last month.
The $25 million will expand the DNC's "I Will Vote" campaign and will be used to help register and educate voters and will establish the DNC's largest voter protection team. Some of those functions, like voter registration, are routine for a political party.
The money will also be used to create the largest tech team in the DNC's history, which will use data and other tools to reach people who might be affected by restrictive voting laws or who might have been purged from voting rolls.
Harris, who has been tasked by the White House to work on voting rights, said that she believed that the Republican elections bills were designed "to make it harder for you to vote so that you don't vote."
"And again, I want to make clear that this is about all voters," Harris said. "We want to help you vote, and we want to help make sure your vote is counted. And that is because our democracy is strongest when everyone participates."
Biden has repeatedly warned that the right to vote is under attack, but has yet to offer any meaningful federal response to the issue. After promising to use the month of June to "fight like heck" to get the For the People Act passed in Congress, Biden dedicated most of his public engagements to promoting his infrastructure bill.
Also Thursday, a group of civil rights leaders met with Biden and Harris for more than an hour at the White House to discuss what they described as an assault on voting rights.
"What we emphasized to the president is that our backs are against the wall," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "This is the moment, there is no more time, we must have legislation, we must have the president use his voice, use his influence use his power."
Rev. Al Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, said the conversation was candid and they discussed the need not only for voting rights legislation but policing policies as well. He also touted the need to build a grass-roots infrastructure to combat restrictive voting bills.
"It was our task to tell the president and vice president, that not only do we need the White House to do all it can, that we are going to build a movement around this country to resist what is clearly a move to try and disenfranchise people of color from voting," he said.
Just hours before Harris' speech, Texas House Republicans again tried to roll back voting access Wednesday evening in a special legislative session after Democrats blocked a similar effort this spring.
The Department of Justice announced in June that it was suing the state of Georgia over its recently enacted voting restrictions, marking the first major federal enforcement action around the spate of Republican-led laws. The lawsuit argues that Georgia enacted the law knowing it would disproportionately affect Black voters.
Biden and Harris also met with civil rights leaders Thursday afternoon at the White House. Leaders from the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, among others, attended.