WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Sunday signed an executive order expanding access to voter registration services and information for all Americans and separately called upon Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.
Biden’s actions came on the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day state troopers clashed violently with voting rights activists on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The late Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, was among the protesters seriously injured in the melee that prompted the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting,” Biden said in a videotaped address to the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast. “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”
Specifically, the order mandates the development by federal agencies of a strategic plan for promoting voter registration and participation, including “potentially applying to be a state-designated voter registration agency and providing recommendations on leave for federal employees to vote or to serve as poll workers,” The Washington Post reported.
The order’s intent is to make the polls more accessible to Black and other minority voters, including Native Americans and people with disabilities, CNBC reported.
The order also aims to expand access to voting among active-duty military members and all eligible federally incarcerated people, while also establishing a steering group on Native American voting rights that has been given a 2022 deadline to expand voter outreach and turnout among Native American communities, the Post reported.
The White House characterized Biden’s order as an “initial step” in persuading Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act, a central plank of which was invalidated in a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, CNBC reported.
“I also urge Congress to fully restore the Voting Rights Act, named in John Lewis’ honor,” Biden said Sunday.
Lewis, who died in 2020, suffered a fractured skull attempting to lead 600 voting rights activists on their march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
According to CNBC, Biden also plans to work alongside lawmakers to enact the For the People Act, passed by the House last week, that includes additional reforms to make voting “equitable and accessible.”
“This is a landmark piece of legislation that is urgently needed to protect the right to vote, the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy,” Biden said.