Joe Biden's All Words and Little Action Leave Voting Rights Groups Disenchanted

Several voting rights groups have been left disenchanted by President Joe Biden's perceived inaction on protections for voter access during the Democrat's first year in office.

Some voting rights advocates have criticised the Biden administration ahead of a major speech the president will deliver about voting in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Biden is expected to announce his support for Senate filibuster reforms, which would allow the passage of voting rights legislation and could pave the way for a block on recent voter restrictions passed by state governments.

However, several voting rights have said they will not attend the event and have criticized the president.

The groups planning to skip Biden's speech on Tuesday include the Asian American Advocacy Fund, Black Voters Matter, GALEO Impact Fund Inc. and New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Those groups have urged the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights (Advancement) Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which may not be possible without changes to the Senate filibuster.

Other groups, including the NAACP, End Citizens United and Indivisible, also called on Biden to work to pass those two bills ahead of his remarks in Georgia on Tuesday.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson told NBC News on Monday: "There's nothing more urgent. The administration and Congress must use all the tools at their disposal to get voting rights across the finish line."

"We need to see outcomes," Johnson said. He is expected to appear with Biden on Tuesday, along with other civil rights leaders.

End Citizens United spokesperson Adam Bozzi said he hoped the president would pressure the Senate to "do whatever it takes to pass these bills and not let politics or arguments over process stand in the way."

"But more important than what he says is that he and the administration engage with the Senate and work to pass the bill with the same effort and vigor that they put into passing infrastructure," Bozzi said.

Indivisible co-founder Ezra Levin told NBC News: "We're looking for him to do what he didn't do last summer in his speech in Philly - go beyond naming the problem and instead actually explain what he's going to do to get the two democracy bills passed."

Biden has previously expressed support for changes to the filibuster, and has criticized new voter restrictions introduced since the 2020 election. Nineteen states, including Georgia, have passed new elections laws since Biden's election win.

However, a major piece of voting rights legislation, the For the People Act, was blocked in the evenly divided Senate in 2021 when Republicans successfully deployed the filibuster.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter—one of the groups that has said it will not attend Biden's speech—told CNN on Monday: "We don't need even more photo ops. We need action and that action is in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights (Advancement) Act as well as the Freedom to Vote Act, and we need that immediately."

James Woodall, former president of the NAACP of Georgia, echoed those sentiments in remarks to The New York Times.

"We do not need any more speeches, we don't need any more platitudes," Woodall said.

Biden may be facing an uphill struggle on filibuster reform as Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have expressed opposition to changing the parliamentary procedure. Both their votes will be needed along with all other Democrats in order to approve changes to the filibuster. Without a carve out for voting rights, it is difficult to see how the proposed legislation could pass.

President Joe Biden Answers Questions
U.S. President Joe Biden answers reporters' questions after delivering closing remarks for the White House's virtual Summit For Democracy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. Voting rights advocates have called on Biden to take action on voting protections. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images