Joint Center Updates
President Biden supports changing Senate voting rules to advance voting rights legislation: President Biden endorses changing Senate rules to pass new legislation to protect voting rights, The Washington Post reports. President Biden, who traveled to Atlanta with Vice President Harris to deliver the speech, expressed his strongest defense of changing the filibuster to ease the passage of the voting rights bills. He said he believes the filibuster is being abused to prevent legislation that is fundamental to democracy. Prior to President Biden’s speech, Joint Center President Spencer Overton called for the Senate to “create a democracy carve-out to the filibuster so that it can pass the two bills by a simple majority vote.” After President Biden’s speech, Mr. Overton told The New York Times “Biden was not silent today. He drew clear lines that you’re either for democracy or you’re against democracy.”
Uptick in threats against U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins in the wake of her confirmation: Rachel Rollins, President Biden’s choice to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts, was sworn in Monday, while facing violent and racist threats in the wake of her tightly contested Senate confirmation, CNN reports. The threats have prompted calls for the U.S. Justice Department to do more to protect people of color in the federal judicial system, including the most diverse class of U.S. attorneys in history.
Legacy of legal scholar Lani Guinier lauded in the wake of her passing: The life and legacy of legal scholar Lani Guinier, whose work on voting rights and affirmative action led former President Bill Clinton to nominate her to be an assistant attorney general for civil rights, was remembered in the wake of her Jan. 7 passing , The New York Times reports. Joint Center President Spencer Overton, in an Election Law Blog post, celebrated her achievements as a voting rights scholar by saying “The significance of her visionary work has stood the test of time, particularly in this moment when the future of American multiracial democracy seems so tenuous.” Mr. Overton also noted that Ms. Guinier’s “commitment to truth and ideas made her a target in Washington, D.C.” Mr. Overton, who considered Ms. Guinier a mentor, told NPR “She was always available, supportive, and honest. She was an outstanding mentor and model to me and many others, and again.”
Fourth lawsuit filed over redistricting in Georgia: Voting rights groups have filed a lawsuit challenging a redistricting of a congressional seat held by Congresswoman Lucy McBath (D-GA) in a map drawn to favor Republican candidates in upcoming elections, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The case is the fourth suit filed over redistricting since Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed new political maps into law. The federal lawsuit alleges that the new map is unconstitutional because it denies representation to Black communities that predominantly support Democratic candidates.
Detroit Democrats seek to maintain Black representation in Congress in 2022: In the wake of the unexpected retirement announcement of Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Michigan’s only Black member of Congress, Detroit-area Democrats are searching for a replacement to represent the interests of communities of color in 2022, Michigan Live reports. Prior to announcing her retirement, Congresswoman Lawrence noted her dissatisfaction with the new redistricting process and the impact on her district reflected in final maps released last month. Congresswoman Lawrence also noted her desire to spend more time with family as her reason to not seek reelection.
Vincent Evans named the Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus: Prior to joining the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Mr. Evans served as Deputy Director of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Vice President in The White House. Mr. Evans also served as the Southern Political Director for the Biden campaign and as a special assistant/scheduler for Congressman Al Lawson (D-FL) from 2017 to 2019. CBC Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) said that Mr. Evans will “help the CBC reach greater heights and make substantive advances in 2022.”
Upcoming congressional hearings include hearings to examine the nomination of Sandra L. Thompson, of Maryland, to be director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Jan. 13) and hearings to examine the nominations of Margaret A. Burham, of Massachusetts, Gabrielle M. Dudley, of Georgia, Henry Klibanoff of Georgia, and Brenda E. Stevenson of California, each to be a member of the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board (Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Jan. 13).
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) joined with a coalition of partners to send a letter to the Louisiana State House and Senate Governmental Affairs Committees urging the adoption of a redistricting map for the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In a separate statement, the LDF urged the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Special Commission on Reapportionment to end prison-based gerrymandering, calling on the commission to reallocate all incarcerated people to their home communities for the purposes of redistricting.
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law joined the When We All Vote initiative, endorsed by former First Lady Michelle Obama, bringing together 31 civil and voting rights organizations to recruit and train volunteers, register new voters, and contact senators to fight for federal voting rights legislation.
The National Action Network will host Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events, including a King Day Policy Forum, Jan. 17, 2022.
Rainbow PUSH will hold its 32nd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration virtually Jan.17, 2022.
The 25th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit will be March 21-23, 2022.