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Black leaders expose the GOP’s voting rights ‘charade’

The heads of some of the top civil rights groups in the country spoke out against those looking to replace the voting rights debate with talk about the Electoral Count Act.


Black leaders of the top civil rights groups in the country aren’t falling for the GOP’s shell game on voting rights.

In a joint statement Monday, the heads of several organizations — including the NAACP, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and the National Council of Negro Women — denounced lawmakers' focus on the Electoral Count Act. The Senate is considering reforming the law as an alternative to passing voting rights legislation, which Republicans have refused to support.

Black community leaders are insistent: They will not allow the discussion to be hijacked and manipulated.

The leaders called the switch up “offensive” and refused to take part in the “charade” of pretending that the alternative bill being considered, which focuses on how and when Electoral College votes are counted, is an adequate substitute for voter protection measures. Any changes to the Electoral Count Act would merely limit an official’s ability to throw out certified electoral votes when a joint session of Congress meets to count them after a presidential election — as then-President Donald Trump expected his vice president, Mike Pence, to do last year. The changes would do nothing to ensure that voters have access to the ballot. 

“Bringing clarity to the certification of presidential elections is hollow, if the right to vote itself is not safeguarded,” the civil rights leaders said. “Pursuing this bill alone as a compromise on voting rights reform is offensive to voters, especially voters of color, and the generations who bled and died for the franchise since our nation’s founding.”

Photo illustration: Multiple hands hands raised with closed fists holding up a ballot box.
Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

The leaders warned against “bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake" — keenly aware of how their support for a lackluster voting rights bill would undermine their goal of truly shoring up voting rights.

“Some might view this effort as a cynical attempt to fool the American people into believing meaningful action has been taken on voting rights when none has been taken,” they said. “We won’t participate in that charade.”

Signees of the letter include NAACP President Derrick Johnson; NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill; the Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Action Network president and MSNBC host; and National Urban League President Marc Morial. 

The Biden administration seemed to be in alignment with the leaders on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is “open to and a part of conversations about the Electoral Count Act” but stated it shouldn’t be a “replacement” for voting rights legislation. 

Conservative lawmakers are looking to pivot from the voting rights discussion, and some are finding refuge in the Electoral Count Act. But Black community leaders are insistent: They will not allow the discussion to be hijacked and manipulated.

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