IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why some Georgia civil rights groups are telling Biden and Harris to stay away

In a stern statement Thursday, voting rights groups explained why they don’t want the president and vice president visiting their state next week.
Demonstrators protest outside of the Capitol building in opposition of House Bill 531 on March 8, 2021 in Atlanta, GA.
Demonstrators protest outside of the Georgia Capitol in opposition of House Bill 531 on March 8 in Atlanta.Megan Varner / Getty Images

Several Georgia voting rights groups signed a statement Thursday saying President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris shouldn’t visit the state next week unless they’ve developed a plan to pass voting rights legislation.

The statement, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shows the level of desperation civil rights activists are feeling over nationwide attacks on voter access ahead of the midterm elections. The Black Voters Matter Fund, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, the New Georgia Project Action Fund and the Latino-focused GALEO Impact Action Fund all signed the statement.

On Wednesday, the White House said the president and vice president will go to Georgia on Tuesday to emphasize the need for voting rights legislation. But the coalition said it wouldn’t welcome the visit unless the two leaders come with clear plans to protect Georgians — who helped Democrats take control of the Senate — from the Republican-led Legislature’s sweeping attacks on voting rights.

The voting rights advocates didn’t mince words:

Georgia voters made history and made their voices heard, overcoming obstacles, threats, and suppressive laws to deliver the White House and the US Senate. In return, a visit has been forced on them, requiring them to accept political platitudes and repetitious, bland promises. Such an empty gesture, without concrete action, without signs of real, tangible work, is unacceptable. As civil rights leaders and advocates, we reject any visit by President Biden that does not include an announcement of a finalized voting rights plan that will pass both chambers, not be stopped by the filibuster, and be signed into law; anything less is insufficient and unwelcome.

Across the country, legislatures under Republican control have passed measures meant to restrict ballot access over the past year. Georgia’s new voting measures are among the nation’s strictest, including restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes, a prohibition on giving food and water to voters waiting in line and new voter identification requirements. As such, the Justice Department has targeted them.

“Georgia enacted S.B. 202 with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that numerous provisions, both singly and together, would have on Black voters’ ability to participate in the political process on an equal basis with white voters,” the Justice Department's lawsuit argued.

Rhetorically, the Biden administration has been supportive of voter protections, and the White House has endorsed Democrats’ proposals for voting rights legislation. But the reality of conservative opposition has dashed their hopes. And conservative Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have refused to bypass the filibuster to allow Democrats to enact voter protection measures with a 51-vote majority. 

Nonetheless, the message from voting rights advocates in Georgia was clear: We don’t care how you do it, but you must get voting rights passed. Don’t stop by until you have a strategy.