Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech in Texas on Thursday in which she will address restrictive voting laws in states across the country and call for restoring the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The voting rights speech at the historically-black college Texas Southern University will be one of the first policy speeches of Clinton’s newly launched campaign and will mark one of the first times a 2016 presidential candidate has spoken out about voting restrictions which have swept the country since the high court struck down Section 4 of the VRA in its Shelby County ruling in 2013.
According to her campaign staff, the speech will include a call for a new standard of no fewer than 20 days of early in-person voting in every state, including weekend and evening voting. In 2014, 20 million American voters cast their ballot early but currently, one third of states offer no early voting.
Clinton has previously been outspoken about voting issues — as early as 2013, the former secretary of state called on Congress to fix the law which was gutted that year.
“Anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention,” Clinton said in 2013 in a speech in which she also mocked “the phantom epidemic of voter fraud” that Republicans frequently site as reasoning for enacting voter suppression measures.
If the VRA is not fixed, Clinton warned in 2013, “citizens will be disenfranchised, victimized by the law instead of served by it.”
On Thursday, Clinton will also single out restrictive voting laws in states including Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio. She has previously said North Carolina’s voter ID law “reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression.”
As a senator, Clinton also worked to expand voting access by introducing a measure, the Count Every Vote Act of 2005, which would have made Election Day a federal holiday, established early voting and same-day voter registration across the country and required states to work toward reducing wait times at polling centers. She has also been vocal about the need to restore voting rights to felons who “ought to get a second chance” after they have served their time.
While Clinton speaks out against restrictive voting measures which studies have shown disproportionately keep African Americans and younger voters from the polls, her campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, has started bringing legal actions against restrictive laws in a number of key swing states. Last month, he and others filed a suit against Ohio alleging the state’s restrictive voting laws were designed to suppress the votes of groups that typically vote for Democrats, including students, African Americans and Latinos. And last week, he hit Wisconsin with another suit claiming laws that have curtailed early voting and other restrictive changes put in place by Republican lawmakers hurt minority voters and other groups.
Clinton’s speech comes at a time when the fate of many restrictive voting measures and the impact they could have on the 2016 election is in limbo. In March, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law, handing a win to Gov. Scott Walker (R) who signed the legislation. But other lawsuits challenging restrictive voter ID laws are still in the pipelines — a North Carolina court is scheduled to hear arguments in July in a lawsuit claiming the state’s voting laws are discriminatory. And Texas’ voter ID law is currently being considered by a federal appeals court and may end up before the Supreme Court.