By Eugene Daniels
President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Sunday to promote additional access to voting. It will come symbolically on the 56th Anniversary of the march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The administration describes the executive order as an “initial step” to protect voting rights — one that uses “the authority the president has to leverage federal resources to help people register to vote and provide information,” according to an administration official.
The executive order, according to a fact sheet provided by the administration, will give every federal agency head 200 days to outline a plan to “promote voter registration and participation.” Federal agencies will be directed to notify states about the ways in which it can help with voter registration, in addition to being tasked with improving voting access to military voters and people with disabilities. Biden will also direct the federal government to update and modernize Vote.gov, the website it operates to provide the public with voting-related information.
The order comes as, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than 250 bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country that would restrict voting access after the United States saw record voter turnout during the 2020 election. Republicans pushing the restrictions say they are necessary for “election integrity” after former President Donald Trump pushed lies that his loss was due to massive voter fraud.
On a call with reporters Saturday afternoon, the administration acknowledged that voting access laws were mostly the purview of Congress and state houses around the country. “The president doesn’t have executive authority to prevent a state from taking that kind of action. That would require congressional action,” an administration official said.
Last week, the House passed the “For the People Act,” or H.R. 1, a major voting rights reform bill that would prompt a huge expansion of voting rights and an overhaul of redistricting laws. Republicans have already said they plan to stop the bill in the Senate, which means it would need 60 votes to pass, making it exceedingly unlikely to make it to Biden’s desk.
That’s not lost on the administration official who said: “I think all of us are looking into a crystal ball about what might happen but this president looks forward to being able to sign legislation that comes to him to support voting access.”
In addition to issuing the executive order, Biden will also give virtual remarks at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast that commemorates the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. During those remarks, he is expected to push for the passage of HR1 and sharply critique moves to restrict voting rights.
According to a script of his prepared remarks, Biden will say that “for Black Americans the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy both hiding behind white hoods and in plain sight from statehouses to courtrooms.”