Voting Bill Signed on Bloody Sunday 03/07 09:15
A new executive order from President Joe Biden directs federal agencies to
take a series of steps to promote voting access, a move that comes as
congressional Democrats press for a sweeping voting and elections bill to
counter efforts to restrict voting access.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new executive order from President Joe Biden directs
federal agencies to take a series of steps to promote voting access, a move
that comes as congressional Democrats press for a sweeping voting and elections
bill to counter efforts to restrict voting access.
His plan was being announced during a recorded address on the 56th
commemoration of "Bloody Sunday," the 1965 incident in which some 600 civil
rights activists were viciously beaten by state troopers as they tried to march
for voting rights in Selma, Alabama.
"Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted," Biden
says in his prepared remarks to Sunday's Martin and Coretta King Unity
Breakfast. "If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the
Biden's order includes several modest provisions. It directs federal
agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, calls
on the heads of federal agencies to come up with plans to give federal
employees time off to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, and pushes
an overhaul of the government's Vote.gov website.
Democrats are attempting to solidify support for House Resolution 1, which
touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process. It was approved
Wednesday on a near party-line vote, 220-210.
The voting rights bill includes provisions to restrict partisan
gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and
bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy
donors to anonymously bankroll political causes.
Democrats say the bill will help stifle voter suppression attempts, while
Republicans have cast the bill as unwanted federal interference in states'
authority to conduct their own elections.
The bill's fate is far from certain in the closely divided Senate.
Conservative groups have undertaken a $5 million campaign to try persuade
moderate Senate Democrats to oppose rule changes needed to pass the measure.
With his executive order, Biden is looking to turn the spotlight on the
issue and is using the somber commemoration of Bloody Sunday to make the case
that much is at stake.
Bloody Sunday proved to be a turning point in the civil rights movement that
led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Similarly, Biden is hoping the
Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Donald Trump mob will prove to be a
clarion call for Congress to take action to improve voter protections.
"In 2020 --- with our very democracy on the line --- even in the midst of a
pandemic -- more Americans voted than ever before," Biden says in his prepared
remarks. "Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting ---
we saw an unprecedented insurrection on our Capitol and a brutal attack on our
democracy on January 6th. A never-before-seen effort to ignore, undermine and
undo the will of the people."
Biden's remarks also pay tribute to the late civil rights giants Rev. C.T.
Vivian, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rep. John Lewis. All played critical roles in
the 1965 organizing efforts in Selma and all died in within the past year.