Democrats to invest $25 million in voter education

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic party will invest $25 million in voter registration and education efforts, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will announce on Thursday, as the Biden administration tries to combat restrictive rules passed by Republican-led legislatures in some states.

Harris, who was assigned by the president to lead the administration’s efforts on voting rights, will make the announcement at her alma mater, the historically Black Howard University.

“This campaign is grounded in the firm belief that everyone’s vote matters,” Harris will say, according to remarks provided by the White House. “We are fighting back.”

Harris and President Joe Biden will meet with civil rights groups later on Thursday including the NAACP, National Urban League, National Action Network and others to “discuss the fight to protect the constitutional right to vote,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden’s fellow Democrats have struggled along with civil rights groups to fight a spate of voting restrictions including measures like Georgia’s ban on providing food or water to voters in long lines and a Florida measure giving more power to partisan election observers. The measures can hamper efforts to vote by Black, Latino and younger voters who have helped elect Democrats.

“Democracy is under attack in states across the nation, and we must act with great urgency to protect the American people’s most fundamental and sacred right, the right to vote,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who is attending the meeting with Biden, said in an emailed statement.

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 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 David Gregorio, Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler)

Americans want voting to be easier, also worry about election fraud

By Chris Kahn

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Americans want to make it easier to vote but most adults also favor strict voter identification laws and remain concerned about election fraud, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows.

The latest poll, conducted June 11-17, shows that both Democrats and Republicans can claim some degree of popular support as they debate sweeping changes to the way elections are held.

Republican-controlled state legislatures have rolled out a series of voting restrictions this year, including limits on early voting hours and tougher ID requirements. Republicans say their efforts are focused on preventing election fraud.

Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping to counter that with federal protections that would guarantee a minimum number of early voting days, automatic voter registration, and less restrictive voter identification requirements, for example.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a Democrat-backed election reform bill on Tuesday.

The June poll found that 59% of adults, including a majority of Democrats and Republicans alike, oppose election laws that would cut back on early voting.

States that automatically send voters ballots by mail are also relatively popular: 46% of Americans said they approve of them, while 37% are in opposition. The responses were divided along party lines, however, with 70% of Democrats in support of automatic mail-in ballots and 64% of Republicans in opposition.

The poll also showed Americans largely back some restrictions that Republicans have said would protect the integrity of future elections: 72% said they support requirements that prohibit voting without government identification, including 62% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans.

And 55% of Americans support measures that require local election officials to obtain approval from the state legislature before they could set their own voting plans, while 21% were in opposition.

Americans expressed similar opinions last month. A Reuters/Ipsos survey from May showed that 75% adults felt it was “very” or “somewhat” important that “the government place new limits on voting to protect elections from fraud.” At the same time, 82% wanted the government to “make it easier for people to vote”.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 4,420 adults, including 2,015 Democrats and 1,583 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

White House plans to do more for voting rights even if federal bill passes

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House will pursue other initiatives to boost voting rights even if a contentious federal bill to counter state voting restrictions passes the Senate, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

Democrats in the Senate this week will try to advance legislation setting new national election standards, seeking to counter voting-rights rollbacks at the state level. Republican-controlled legislatures are pursuing these in presidential election swing states liked Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.

“Even if the voting rights bill was sailing across the finish line with support of every member of Congress, there would still be more to be done,” Psaki said. “So again this is not the end of our effort, this in some ways is the beginning.”

Senate Democrats spent the weekend trying to finalize a bill that could win the support of all 50 Democrats and independents in the 100-member chamber. Republicans showed no signs of joining an effort that would expand voting by mail and change the way congressional districts are drawn in an effort to prevent them from being defined along partisan lines.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a procedural vote for Tuesday to let the Senate begin debating an election reform bill.

President Joe Biden is appreciative of the efforts by Senator Joe Manchin to push the voting rights bill forward, Psaki said.

Manchin, a moderate Democratic senator, opposes a broader bill passed by the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives in March and offered his own election reform ideas last week.

Psaki said failure to pass the voting rights legislation would prompt new consideration of the legislative “filibuster” rule, which requires 60 votes to advance most legislation.

Democrats could try to scrap or modify the rule, leaving Republicans powerless if the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents stick together.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Franklin Paul and Cynthia Osterman)