Biden issues voting access executive order on Bloody Sunday’s anniversary

The executive order, according to a fact sheet provided by the administration, gave the heads of every federal agency 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 they can help with voter registration, in addition to being tasked with improving voting access to military voters and people with disabilities. Biden also directed 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 U.S. 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 on Saturday afternoon, the Biden administration acknowledged that voting access laws were mostly the purview of Congress and state legislatures.

“The president doesn’t have executive authority to prevent a state from taking that kind of action,” an administration official said. “That would require congressional action.”

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 gave pre-taped virtual remarks at the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast, which commemorates the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

“The blood of John Lewis and hundreds of other brave and righteous souls that was spilled in Selma, on this Sunday in 1965, sanctified a noble struggle,” Biden said.

During those remarks, Biden pushed for the passage of H.R. 1 and sharply criticized moves to restrict voting rights.

“Let’s remember all those who came before us as a bridge to our history so we do not forget its pain, and as a bridge to our future so we never lose our hope,” he said.