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Civil rights groups urge Biden to use bully pulpit to counter Republican voting measures

Leaders from top civil rights groups visited the White House Thursday to urge the administration to work with Congress and pass voting legislation. 

National Action Network president Reverend Al Sharpton said the group of eight strategized with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on a plan to counter GOP efforts to tighten restrictions on voting.

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“If we don’t put the street heat on it won’t happen,” Sharpton told reporters following the meeting. “We informed them this is going to come not from the White House down but from our houses up.”

The civil rights groups said Congress needs to pass the “For the People Act” and the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” to counter what they believe is a targeted attack against minority voters.

The leader of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, accused Republicans of a concerted effort to “suppress” the vote for “black people, brown people, young people, people who are disabled and many other Americans who live with great disadvantage in this country.”

Republicans deny that they are trying to suppress the Black vote and say that restrictions on certain voting practices and imposing identification requirements prevents fraud.

The White House meeting comes one week after the Supreme Court ruled to uphold new voting regulations in Arizona.

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The high court found in a 6-3 ruling that Arizona’s voting laws did not suppress minority voters but reflected “quintessential examples of the usual burdens of voting.”

But Democrats have argued GOP-led legislation on voting rights nationwide is an attempt to weaken Democratic votes in the lead up to the 2022 midterms.

“We will not be able to litigate our way out of this threat to Black citizenship, voting and political participation,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund told reporters.

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“We must have the president use his voice, use his influence, use his power, and use what he clearly understands about this moment,” she said. 

The White House called the meeting “constructive” but did not further comment on how the president intends to work with Congress in passing major voting legislation.