Aug 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris calls for voting reform on 19th Amendment anniversary

 Kamala Harris speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, being held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware on August 19
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 19. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) marked Women's Equality Day Wednesday with a Washington Post op-ed calling for further voting rights protections ahead of this November's elections.

Why it matters: The first woman of color to be a vice presidential nominee made the call for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to pass on the day that honors the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which gave women aged 21 and older the right to vote in the U.S. (though in practice many women of color still could not.)

  • Wednesday is the 100th anniversary of its certification.

Details: In her op-ed, the first Black woman of South Asian descent on a U.S. presidential ticket argued that if the Senate passed the House Democrats' bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis, it would "fulfill the promise embodied" in the 19th Amendment.

  • "We need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, support automatic and same-day voter registration and help fund secure state voting systems," Harris wrote. "And that is what Joe Biden and I will do when we're in the White House."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has declined to bring the measure that aims to restore a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act up for a vote.
"There's very little tangible evidence of this whole voter-suppression nonsense that the Democrats are promoting."
— McConnell's comments to the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

Between the lines: The Supreme Court gutted in 2013 a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the government to regulate new election laws, like eliminating polling locations, in several mostly Southern states with a history of discrimination.

Of note: Harris also used the op-ed to address baseless claims by President Trump and his allies that have cast doubt on mail-in voting. Trump said during Monday's Republican National Convention that Democrats were "using COVID to steal an election" with expanded mail-in voting.

  • Harris called the claims "scare tactics" and vowed that the Biden-Harris campaign would commit "the resources needed to beat back voter suppression."

What else she's saying: She also acknowledged the "discrimination and rejection from White suffragists" that Black activists like Ida B. Wells encountered to secure the vote.

  • "[W]hen the 19th Amendment was ratified at last, Black women were again left behind: poll taxes, literacy tests and other Jim Crow voter suppression tactics effectively prohibited most people of color from voting," Harris noted.
"[T]his fall, remember the struggles and sacrifices that made it possible. Because the best way to honor the generations of women who paved the way for me — for all of us — is to vote, and to continue their fight for all Americans to be able to do the same, no matter their gender, race, age, ability or Zip code."

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