The vice president spoke to Soledad O'Brien about Republican-led measures that she said restrict access to voting

By Virginia Chamlee
July 08, 2021 11:28 AM
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Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris
| Credit: CBS This Morning

In her first interview on the topic since becoming vice president, Kamala Harris pushed back against Republican-backed laws that she said will restrict access to voting, particularly among those in rural or lower-income communities.  

"I don't think that we should underestimate what that could mean," Harris, 56, told Soledad O'Brien in an excerpt from "State of Our Union: Vice President Kamala Harris," a news special set to air Friday on BET.

Speaking specifically about measures requiring IDs in order to vote, Harris continued: "Because in some peoples' minds, that means, well, you're going to have to Xerox or photocopy your ID to send it in to prove you are who you are. Well, there are a whole lot of people —especially people who live in rural communities — that there's no Kinkos, there's no Office Max, near them."

Harris added that those crafting these measures need to "be clear about who you have in mind and what would be required of them to to prove who they are."

"Of course people have to prove who they are," Harris said. "But not in a way that makes it almost impossible for them to prove who they are."

Her recent comments echoed statements made in 2020, when Harris (then the Democratic nominee for vice president) penned an op-ed in which she wrote that Republicans are "doing everything in their power to suppress and attack the voting rights of people of color."

Election laws have become a national political flashpoint of late, with activists arguing that measures like one recently passed in Georgia make voting more difficult for minority voters.

The 100-page Georgia law shortens periods in which people can request and send in mail ballots and will require voters to show ID when voting absentee. The law also potentially allows some precincts to schedule voting periods during the workday and restricts when voters can cast provisional ballots if they go to the wrong precinct.

In the weeks and months since the Georgia measure was passed by the state's Republican-led legislature, it's drawn rebuke not just from Democratic lawmakers and civil rights advocates but also major brands and the MLB, who moved the 2021 All-Star Game as a result.

Republicans including Gov. Brian Kemp argue the legislation makes future elections "more secure," though experts say there is no evidence of widespread fraud to begin with.

According to the progressive-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, at least 17 state legislatures have enacted new laws that restrict voting access around the country.

Harris and President Joe Biden plan to focus on voting rights in events held Thursday, and both will meet with leaders from a range of civil rights groups to discuss the matter, according to a schedule sent by the White House.

CNN reports that Harris is also expected to announce the expansion of the Democratic National Committee's "I Will Vote" campaign, which works to combat voter suppression nationwide.

Democrats earlier attempted to pass a sweeping federal measure to protect voting rights though it failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate in a procedural vote.

That measure, known as the For the People Act, would help create a nationwide automatic voter registration system, expand mail-in voting, restore voting rights to people with a past felony and protect against state's individual attempts to create restrictive new laws surrounding voter identification.