U.S. civil rights leaders vow to keep up fight for voting rights

·2 min read
U.S. President Joe Biden visits McHenry County College, in Crystal Lake

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. civil rights leaders emerged from a White House meeting with President Joe Biden on Thursday vowing a "summer of activism" to battle new voting restrictions enacted in Republican-led states in recent months.

Vice President Kamala Harris also said on Thursday that the Democratic Party would invest $25 million in voter registration and education efforts.

Harris, who was assigned by the president to lead the administration's efforts on voting rights, made the announcement at her alma mater, Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington.

Biden and Harris met with civil rights groups including the NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network to "discuss the fight to protect the constitutional right to vote," the White House said in a statement.

"This will be a summer of activism, a summer of getting back in the streets, a summer of saying to the Senate and the Congress: 'You may be going home but it's going to be warmer politically than you think," the Rev. Al Sharpton told reporters after the meeting.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the meeting was "encouraging" but that it was now up to Congress to act with urgency to pass legislation that protects the right to vote.

"Time is of the essence. We cannot forget that justice is an ongoing struggle, and democracy, an ongoing fight," Johnson said.

Biden's fellow Democrats have struggled along with civil rights groups to fight a spate of voting restrictions in states including Georgia and Florida that critics say are aimed at Black, Hispanic and younger voters, who have helped elect Democrats.

Republican state legislators say their new voting laws are designed to enhance election security, citing former President Donald Trump's false claims his November election defeat was the result of widespread fraud. Those claims were rejected by multiple courts, state election authorities and Trump's own administration.

Last month, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic-backed national election reform bill that would have expanded opportunities to vote before Election Day, made certain campaign contributions more transparent and reformed the process for the drawing of congressional districts. Republicans said it violated states' authority to set their own election laws.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Steve Holland and Merdie Nzanga; Editing by Heather Timmons, Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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