11:47 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to thank these incredible leaders for joining us today, this morning. The issue of voting rights in America is probably among the most serious and significant issues that we are facing at this moment. And voting rights for people with disabilities is one of our highest priorities.
In that context, I have asked these leaders to join me to provide us with insight, with advice, and with perspective on not only how these emerging laws in various states will impact our friends and our neighbors and family members with disabilities, but also I am fully aware that even before these laws started to most recently emerge, we still weren’t doing a good job.
And so that will be part of this conversation as well. And — but we know there are, across this country — first of all, there are people with disabilities across our country. There are people who vote for a variety of issues, and this is not a community that’s a monolith, just like no community is.
But it is — it is an issue when we think about the convenience for all communities of voting by mail. And when there are laws that are restricting or preventing vote-by-mail, what does that mean to the voters? What does it mean to the people when we talk about the ability to vote early for every community?
I talked about, you know, anybody who’s working two or three jobs — what that means to them. Let’s see the people in terms of how folks live their lives and how will these restrictions impact the people’s right to have their voice reflected through their vote.
When I think about the laws that are — are being passed that — that are impeding on the assistance folks might need to register their vote, what will that mean in terms of restriction, suppression of the voice of the people?
So these are the subjects that we will discuss today. And — and I will also add that our administration’s executive order from March will improve accessibility, and that is a good step. So, while there are many steps that I believe are — are going backward, there are some steps that are going forward.
And in particular, the President’s executive order will, one, require that federal websites include more information about voting, and also, that it will be language accessible. We are making sure that the federal voter registration form is accessible, that it is not bulky, that it is not incomprehensible. Accessibility, again, across the board.
And we are going to require the National Institute of Standards and Technology — it’s known as “NIST” — that they study barriers to voting for people with disabilities and provide recommendations.
And then, there is a very important component to this Friday on this topic — and I’m so glad that we’re meeting before Friday — which is that: We have issued a notice asking for input from people with disabilities to submit that input by the end of Friday, July 16th.
And so, folks can go to — I’m going to give you a website — www — what would I be, a member of government, without a website. (Laughter.) But www.regulations.gov. I’m going to repeat that: www.regulations.gov. And enter — and then we’ll provide all of this on the web — our website as well. Enter uppercase “NIST-2021” — this year — dash and then three zeros and a three — “0003.” And we’ll get that information to everybody in another form as well. Okay?
So, I will end my comments for now by saying, again, thank you to all of the leaders who are convened today. You represent the experience, the life, and the voice so many Americans whose voices and whose perspective must be represented in all of these rooms at all of these tables. Because if we are truly a democracy, it means that we have a representative government that reflects the experience and the life of all of the people in our country. And I think we have a lot more work to do
in this regard as it relates to our — our fellow Americans with disabilities.
So, I appreciate you all. And with that, let’s begin our discussion.
Q Madam Vice President, do have any comment on your conversation with the Texas legislatures — legislators from yesterday? And do you know if the President plans to meet with them at all?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’ve had an extensive meeting — I had an extensive meeting yesterday with, I think, some of the most courageous elected leaders that we could note at this moment.
I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: They took bold, courageous action, in line with the legacy of everyone from Frederick Douglass — who is over my right shoulder — when he fought for the right of Black men to vote in America; to the legacy that includes all of those women who marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for women’s right to vote; to all of those folks who shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to make sure that we would, in 1965, pass the Voting Rights Act.
And now we have, in 2021, the Texas legislature — many of them traveling to Washington, D.C., at great sacrifice, both personally and political, to stand up for Americans’ right to vote unencumbered.
11:54 A.M. EDT