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Voting rights groups speak out ahead of Biden and Harris' trip to Georgia


Tomorrow, President Biden and Vice President Harris will be in Atlanta to make the case for voting rights legislation. But a coalition of voting rights groups in Georgia say unless the White House actually has a plan, they should skip the visit. Nse Ufot is the CEO of one of those groups, the New Georgia Project.


NSE UFOT: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

CHANG: Well, thank you for being with us. So your group and others put out that statement I referenced late last week. Have you heard anything from the White House since?

UFOT: I have. And what I'll say is that there's several members of our coalition that have been reached out to by the White House. But what we haven't heard is the thing that we've been asking for since January 6, 2021, which is what is the plan to pass federal voting rights protections, enhance federal voting rights protections? - that we are witnessing an attack on our very elections infrastructure, on our democracy; that this isn't just a garden-variety partisan political fight.

And so what is our - what are our leaders prepared to do, and what's the path to protecting the right to vote in our country? That's what we've been consistently asking for.

CHANG: Yeah.

UFOT: And that's what we want to see and hear tomorrow.

CHANG: Well, what exactly would you like to see in a plan?

UFOT: I would like to see, one, an acknowledgment that the GOP is no longer a legitimate partner in anything that would remotely resemble bipartisanship, that they are in fact a criminal caucus that, like, executed - poorly executed a plan to kill the vice president of the United States and stop the electoral vote from happening - and that they need to carve out the filibuster. I would like to get rid of the filibuster because I feel like it's a racist tool, but that there is a carve-out for the filibuster for voting rights; and that there is a plan to get a bill to the floor that can pass with a simple majority and the vice president making - breaking the tie...


UFOT: ...In the next 30 days.

CHANG: I am looking at other elements of the proposal that I think has been - that your group and other groups has been disseminating. And this would include limiting voter purges, allowing people to register to vote and cast a ballot the same day, create national standards for redistricting. You're on board with these kinds of provisions, yeah?

UFOT: Yeah, and have been.


UFOT: (Unintelligible). All of those things are included in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (ph)...

CHANG: Right.

UFOT: ...And the For the People Act. So to be even more explicit, a filibuster carve-out for voting rights and a path to plan - a path to passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act.

CHANG: Well, I bring up those specific provisions because Republicans are arguing that studies have shown that voting laws don't actually suppress turnout. And many of these ideas that we just cited are focused on preventing voter suppression. Republicans argue that voting laws still do not suppress turnout, people still show up.

So what do you make of that response, this suggestion that maybe your side is overstating the problem? What would you say to that?

UFOT: I would say that the same party that voted, like - what? - nearly 200 of its members voted to not certify the election because they don't believe that Joe Biden is the legitimate president United States and that there were members of its leadership that were part of a murder plot to kill the vice president of the United States and that they oversaw an insurrection where people flung feces inside the people's House don't get to tell me what is and isn't voter suppression because they aren't legitimate actors, and they certainly aren't legitimate leaders or statespersons. And so any attempt to give them credibility or to give their statements credibility is just giving them a pass while our country's democracy is being attacked in front of our very faces.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you about the math inside the Senate now. I mean, you mentioned a carve-out for voting rights legislation when it comes to filibuster rules. It seems unlikely that anything would pass without that carve-out to the filibuster rules. But senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia - both Democrats, of course - so far, they say that they will not support a change to the filibuster rules. So without their support, what can actually happen in Congress?

UFOT: I think that we call the question, right? So I - so that's what they're saying when it's a hypothetical, when people aren't - like, when the question has not been called, right? So I think that when the rubber meets the road, I am thinking that Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin can rise to the occasion and do the people's work and do what is necessary as patriots and as statesmen to protect American democracy.

CHANG: That is Nse Ufot. She is the CEO of the New Georgia Project.

Thank you very much for joining us today.

UFOT: Thank you for having me. Take care. Happy New Year.

(SOUNDBITE OF KORESMA'S "NEW FRONTIER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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