WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order ordering federal agencies to take a series of measures to promote access to the vote, a move that comes as Democrats in Congress push for a bill on voting and elections to counter efforts to restrict access to voting.
Biden will announce the order during a recorded speech at the 56th ‘Bloody Sunday’ commemoration, the 1965 incident in which some 600 civil rights activists were severely beaten by state soldiers as they were trying to march for the franchise in Selma, Alabama.
“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and get them counted,” Biden said in a script of his recorded remarks at Sunday’s Martin and Coretta King Unity breakfast.
Biden’s order includes several modest provisions. Orders federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, calls on heads of federal agencies to come up with plans to give federal employees time to vote or volunteer as attendants in the non-partisan ballot, and proscribes an overhaul of the government vote. government website, according to an administration official who briefed reporters.
Democrats are trying to solidify support for House Resolution 1, which touches virtually every aspect of the electoral process. It was approved on Wednesday in a vote close to the party line, 220-210.
The franchise bill includes provisions to restrict partisan gerrymandering from congressional districts, remove barriers to voting, and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to fund anonymously political causes.
Democrats say the bill will help quell attempts to suppress voters, while Republicans have presented the bill as unwanted federal interference in the power of states to conduct their own elections.
The fate of the bill is far from certain in a tightly divided Senate. Conservative groups mounted a $ 5 million lobbying campaign to try to persuade moderate Democrats in the Senate to oppose the rule changes needed to pass the measure.
With his executive order, Biden seeks to shine the spotlight on the matter and uses the grim commemoration of Bloody Sunday to argue that the stakes are high.
Bloody Sunday turned out to be a conscious and shocking turning point in the civil rights movement that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Likewise, Biden hopes that the Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a mob pro-Donald Trump will turn out to be a clear call for Congress to take action to improve voter protection.
“In 2020 – with our very democracy at stake – even in the midst of a pandemic – more Americans voted than ever before,” Biden says in the script. “Yet instead of celebrating this powerful voting demonstration, we saw an unprecedented insurgency on our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6. An effort never seen before to ignore, undermine and defeat the will of the people. “
Biden’s remarks also pay tribute to former civil rights giants, Reverend CT Vivian, Reverend Joseph Lowery and Rep. John Lewis. All played a critical role in the 1965 organizing efforts in Selma and all died last year.