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Voting-rights activists warn Biden to skip Atlanta speech without plan for legislation

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive to speak from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Voting-rights activists are warning President Biden to skip his speech on voting rights — set for Tuesday in Atlanta — unless he intends to unveil a concrete plan to pass legislation that would reform the nation’s election system.

“Obviously, there are still obstacles in place and we need to know how the president plans to lean in on voting rights,” Jana Morgan, director of Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition of 240 organizations working to advance voting legislation, told The Washington Times.

“We have seen that voting rights are under attack in some states with restrictive laws and partisan gerrymandering,” she said. “We are five minutes to midnight on democracy in America. The time for negotiation is over. The time for delay is over. We must see the president do whatever it takes.”

That view was shared with the president by a coalition of voting-rights groups. They told Mr. Biden last week that unless he plans to eliminate the filibuster that has blocked Democrats from passing their package of voting reforms, he shouldn’t bother traveling to Atlanta.

Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to give remarks on defending the right to vote and ensuring the integrity of the election system. The visit follows Mr. Biden’s push for voting reform in a speech marking the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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In a statement, the groups said Mr. Biden’s visit has been “forced on” Georgia voters because they elected two Democratic senators in the 2020 election.

The groups added that they “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.”

“A visit has been forced on them, requiring them to accept political platitudes and repetitious, bland promises,” the statement said. “Such an empty gesture, without concrete action, without signs of real, tangible work, is unacceptable. Anything less is insufficient and unwelcome.”

The coalition includes the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, the New Georgia Project Action Fund, and the GALEO Impact Action Fund.

Ms. Morgan, who was arrested last fall outside of the White House during a demonstration demanding that Mr. Biden take a larger role in voter reform, said she also wants to hear a detailed plan from the president.

“We want to hear what his plan is to restore the Senate to functionality and protect the freedom to vote,” she said. “We need to hear not just that voting rights are important, but how they are going to ensure they’ll be passed in the Senate.”

When pressed about whether Mr. Biden will unveil a plan during Tuesday’s speech, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to outline specific action.

“His plan is to sign voting rights legislation into law and that requires a majority of senators to support it, even if there [are] changes to the Senate rules, which is something the president has expressed openness to,” she told reporters Monday.

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