Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order ordering federal agencies to take a number of measures to improve voting access
President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order ordering federal agencies to take a number of measures to improve voting access, a move that comes as Democrats in Congress push for a comprehensive voting and elections bill to address attempts to limit voting rights.
On the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when 600 civil rights demonstrators were brutally assaulted by state troopers as they attempted to march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, Biden will announce the order in a recorded address.
In a script of his reported remarks to Sunday’s Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast, Biden says, “Any qualified voter should be allowed to vote and have their vote counted.”
Biden’s order contains a few minor clauses. According to an administration official who briefed reporters, it orders federal agencies to improve access to voter registration and election records, calls for the heads of federal agencies to come up with proposals to give federal employees time off to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, and mandates an overhaul of the government’s Vote.gov website.
House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, is gaining traction among Democrats. It was approved on a near party-line vote of 220-210 on Wednesday.
The voting-rights bill contains measures to limit partisan congressional district gerrymandering, eliminate voting barriers, and add accountability to a shady campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously fund political causes.
Republicans have portrayed the bill as an unwelcome federal intervention with states’ ability to hold their own elections, whereas Democrats argue it would help thwart voter suppression attempts.
The bill’s fate is far from certain in the Senate, which is deeply divided. Conservative groups have launched a $5 million lobbying effort in an attempt to convince moderate Senate Democrats to vote against the bill’s rule changes.
Biden is hoping to draw attention to the topic with his executive order, and he’s using the solemn commemoration of Bloody Sunday to make the case that a lot is at stake.
Bloody Sunday was a watershed moment in the civil rights movement, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Similarly, Biden is hoping that the sacking of the US Capitol by a pro-Donald Trump mob on January 6 would serve as a wake-up call for Congress to move to strengthen voter rights.
“More Americans voted than ever before in 2020 — with our freedom on the line — and in the midst of a pandemic,” Biden says in the script.
On January 6, however, instead of celebrating this strong vote, we witnessed an unparalleled insurgency on our Capitol and a brutal assault on our democracy. A never-before-seen attempt to ignore, weaken, and reverse the people’s will.
Biden also paid tribute to Rev. CT Vivian, Rev. Joseph Lowery, and Rep. John Lewis, all of whom died in the civil rights movement. All three played pivotal roles in Selma’s 1965 organizing efforts and died during the last year.