President Joe Biden used the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” to issue an executive order on voting rights and boosting Americans’ access to voter registration services.
The President also urged Congress members to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
The legislation named after the late Congressman would restore critical provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – specifically where states and counties with a history of discrimination were forced to receive federal approval to enact new voting laws.
“The right to vote is the foundation of American democracy. Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended,” President Biden remarked during the Martin & Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast. “But many Americans, especially people of color, confront significant obstacles to exercising that fundamental right. These obstacles include difficulties with voter registration, lack of election information, and barriers to access at polling places.”
“For generations, Black voters and other voters of color have faced discriminatory policies and other obstacles that disproportionally affect their communities. These voters remain more likely to face long lines at the polls and are disproportionately burdened by voter identification laws and limited opportunities to vote by mail.
“Limited access to language assistance remains a barrier for many voters. People with disabilities continue to face barriers to voting and are denied legally required accommodations in exercising their fundamental rights and the ability to vote privately and independently.
“Members of our military serving overseas, as well as other American citizens living abroad, also face challenges to exercising their fundamental right to vote.”
The President signed the order while observing the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when, on March 7, 1965, Alabama state troopers attacked peaceful demonstrators led by the late Congressman John Lewis. They were fighting for voting rights as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
President Biden’s order directs federal agencies to submit to the White House plans to outline ways to boost voter registration and participation.
The order also directs federal agencies to help states with voter registration efforts and modernize www.vote.gov.
Earlier legislation passed by the U.S. House would create automatic voter registration and expand absentee voting, measures Republicans have fought to deny.
“The Constitution and laws of the United States prohibit racial discrimination and protect the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other Federal statutes implement those protections and assign the Federal Government a key role in remedying disenfranchisement and unequal access to the polls,” President Biden stated.
“On this day of reflection, please, let us stay focused on the work ahead. Let us 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.”