President Biden on Sunday issued executive orders for federal agencies to promote voting access including registering voters and helping inmates in federal prisons to vote.
The move, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march, served as Mr. Biden’s opening bid in an escalating partisan clash over America’s election laws.
House Democrats last week passed a sweeping election overhaul bill that would impose national standards on elections, as Republicans push for tighter election integrity rules in statehouses across the country.
Mr. Biden announced the plan during a recorded address marking the 56th commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday” march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, when hundreds of civil rights activists were beaten by state troopers.
“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted,” Mr. Biden said in his pre-recorded remarks to Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast on Sunday. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”
The actions ordered by Mr. Biden include:
⦁ Directing federal agencies to offer voting registration on their websites and distribute voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot applications when providing regular services.
⦁ Requiring federal agencies consider whether any identification documents issued by an agency can be issued in a form that satisfies state voter ID laws.
⦁ Directing the General Services Administration to submit a strategic plan outlining steps to modernize and improve the user experience of the federal government’s voting-related information site, Vote.gov, within 200 days.
⦁ Ordering the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to analyze and report on barriers to voting for people with disabilities.
⦁ Directing the attorney general to establish procedures to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting and to facilitate voter registration for eligible inmates in federal prisons.
⦁ Establishing a American Indian voting rights steering group that will be coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council and include Cabinet officials. The steering group must produce a report in one year on best practices for protecting voting rights and increasing the election turnout of American Indians.
The actions, though relatively meager, served to add urgency to congressional Democrats’ quest to expand access to the ballot box, including expanding mail-in voting.
The recently passed House bill, known as H.R. 1 or the “For the People Act,” would require states to have automatic voter-registration systems and no-excuse vote-by-mail ballots, as well as overhaul campaign finance and redistricting laws.
The legislation is all-but doomed in the narrowly divided Senate. Republicans oppose the legislation, which they consider a partisan effort intended only to benefit Democratic candidates. They also balked at the bill for guaranteeing voting rights for all felons, granting statehood to the District of Columbia and providing public financing of campaigns.
Republicans in state legislatures, meanwhile, are pushing for stricter election rules such as voter ID laws, reviews of voter rolls and restrictions on mail-in ballots. They were spurred to action by widespread reports of irregularities in the 2020 presidential election and suspicions of fraud related to the increased use of mail-in ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
⦁ Haris Alic contributed to this report.
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