SELMA, Ala. — Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Alabama on Sunday as the nation marks a defining moment in the fight for the right to vote, a trip that comes as congressional efforts to restore the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act have faltered.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden reiterated his desire for passage of voter legislation.
“The battle for the soul of America has many fronts. The right to vote is the most fundamental,” Biden said in a White House statement.
Harris is traveling to Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 57th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day in 1965 when white state troopers attacked Black voting rights marchers attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The nation’s first female vice president — as well as the first African American and Indian American in the role— will speak at the site often referred to as hallowed ground in the fight for voting right for minority citizens.
John Lewis was a young activist and Georgia’s long-serving congressman when he was tear-gassed by state troopers. These images shocked the country and helped to galvanize support of the Voting rights Act of 1965. Her visit to the city that served as the cradle of the Voting Rights Act comes as Democrats have unsuccessfully tried to update the landmark law — after a key provision was tossed out by a U.S. Supreme Court decision — and pass additional measures to make it more convenient for people to vote.
“In Selma, the blood of John Lewis and so many other courageous Americans sanctified a noble struggle. We are determined to honor that legacy by passing legislation to protect the right to vote and uphold the integrity of our elections, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act,” Biden said in a statement
It is named in honor of Lewis who died in 2020.
Biden said the strength of the groundbreaking 1965 law “has been weakened not by brute force, but by insidious court decisions.”
A section of 1965 law required that certain states, mostly in the South with history of voting discrimination, obtain approval from the U.S. Justice Department before they could change the manner in which elections are held. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned it in 2013.
The supporters of the end of preclearance said the requirement — while necessary in the 1960s — was was no longer needed. Voting rights advocates have warned that states will be encouraged to pass new restrictions on voting after the expiration of preclearance.
The sweeping legislation called the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would restore the preclearance requirement and the put nationwide standards for how elections operate — such as making Election Day a national holiday and allowing early voting nationwide — stablish rules for redistricting criteria.
Politicians have made it a habit of stopping at the annual Bloody Sunday Remembrance to remember the Civil Rights Movement’s foot soldiers and call for change.
Harris will be speaking at the foot the bridge with civil rights leaders and Harris will also visit them. Named after Confederate General, the bridge has become an iconic symbol for civil rights.
Harris will also take part in the annual event’s symbolic march across the bridge.
Several other members of President Joe Biden’s administration will also attend the event, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan.