“I think Vice President Harris herself personifies the need to expand voting rights,” Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the Tulsa speech, said in an interview. “When he’s on the phone or going into an office, we’re seeing why we need the right to vote.”
Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said the decision to elevate Ms. Harris as the face of the administration’s work on the issue was a crucial moment for at the Biden White House, given the number of advancing voter suppression efforts: 389 bills in 48 states and accountants, according to a tracker maintained by the Brennan Center.
“Decades have passed since a Democratic White House turned voting rights and democracy reform into a central goal,” Waldman said, but added that “the clock is ticking.”
Ms. Harris ’impact on Senate melee politics is expected to be limited, but she often drew attention to voting rights during her four years as a senator. During her senior year in the Senate, Ms. Harris introduced legislation that would extend electoral security measures, require each state to have early voting periods in person, and allow for an extension of e-mail voting in absentia.
In 2020, Ms. Harris was also a sponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was based on a formula to identify states with a history of discrimination and require those jurisdictions to remove any change in their voting processes with the federal government. Protections were removed by the Supreme Court in 2013.
However, Mrs Harris, who spent part of her time in the Senate running for the presidency, was not known to establish particularly close relations with her colleagues, and Mr Manchin and Mrs Sinema are not an exception.
Several Democratic aides who work closely with senators on Wednesday mocked the idea that Mrs. Harris, known as a staunch liberal, would be the one to persuade any of the moderate lawmakers to change the filibuster rule. Nor is Ms. Harris a likely candidate to get the kind of commitment on the merits of the bill needed to convince Mr. Manchin, the only Democrat who hasn’t sponsored him, to bet.