President Joe Biden will sign an executive order Sunday directing the federal government to promote voting access in a move meant to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches for civil rights.
Biden will order federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, according to an administration official. That includes directing heads of all federal agencies to submit a “strategic plan” to the White House within 200 ways on how their departments can promote voter registration and participation.
Additionally, the U.S. federal chief information officer will coordinate across federal agencies to “improve or modernize” federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information under the order.
Biden’s executive action, limited in scope, comes as he’s backing Democratic-led voting rights legislation, H.R. 1, that cleared the House this week on a party-line vote. It would usher in sweeping election reforms such as increasing early voting, lessening photo-identification requirements, allowing-same day-registration, and mandating independent redistricting of congressional districts.
The bill would also combat efforts of Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country that – inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in his election loss – are considering new measures that would restrict voter access.
Biden is expected to sign the order as he virtually addresses the Martin and Coretta King unity breakfast Sunday afternoon in remembrance of “Blood Sunday” in Selma, Alabama. On March 7, 1965, more than 100 peaceful protesters on their way to Montgomery, including the late Rep. John Lewis, were met on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by a wall of police. The protesters were tear-gassed and beaten. Lewis’ skull was fractured.
Typically, Biden, other top Democrats and civil rights leaders would pilgrimage to Selma for the anniversary, but there is no in-person gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden’s executive order will also:
► Direct federal agencies to assist states with voter registration efforts under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
►Order the General Services Administration to improve and modernize the federal voter registration website Vote.gov.
►Order recommendations on leave for federal employees allowing them to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers
►Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to evaluate and publish recommendations on steps needed to ensure the online federal voter registration form is accessible to people with disabilities.
►Direct Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to establish procedures to annually offer each member of the armed forces the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections, update voter registration, or request an absentee ballot.
►Direct the attorney general to establish procedures to provide educational materials on voter registration and voting for all eligible individuals in federal prisons or on probation by a federal court.
►Establish a Native American voting rights steering group that will work with tribal organizations to identify best practices to protect voting rights of Native Americans