By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON () – U.S. President Joe Biden enacted an executive order on Sunday to make it easier for Americans to vote, the White House said, as Republicans across the country seek to restrict voting rights after the 2020 elections.
Biden’s order comes on the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, when state forces and police in Selma, Alabama attacked civil rights activists protesting racial discrimination at the polling booth.
“The legacy of the March in Selma is that nothing can prevent a free people from exercising their most sacred power as citizens, but there are those who will do anything to take that power away,” said Biden in previous comments on the “Martin & Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast, “which was released on Sunday.
Last week, House Democrats passed sweeping legislation to update voting procedures and require states to turn over the task of redesigning Congressional districts to independent commissions. This bill faces a difficult chance of getting through the Senate.
Biden called on the Senate to pass the law.
Its executive order directs federal agencies to submit plans within 200 days outlining steps to expand voter registration and distribute electoral information to voters. It also instructs the U.S. Chief Information Officer to modernize federal websites and digital services that provide such details.
The Democrats’ urge to make voting easier comes because Republican lawmakers in dozen of states tried to restrict electoral access following the loss of former President Donald Trump in the November election.
Trump falsely claimed that the 2020 elections were rigged and emailed criticism of the voting efforts undertaken during the coronavirus pandemic. On Jan. 6, following a rally where Trump urged them to fight, his supporters stormed the U.S. Citol as lawmakers met to confirm Biden’s victory.
Biden cited historic turnout in the 2020 election amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
“But instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting, on January 6th we saw an unprecedented riot in our Citol and a brutal attack on our democracy,” he said. “And to think that there has been a widespread attack on the right to vote in state legislatures across the country that is now intensifying.”
More than 250 bills restricting electoral access have been introduced in 43 states during the current term, a senior administration official told reporters, citing a report from the Brennan Center for Justice.
Biden’s Executive Order will also direct federal agencies to assist states with voter registration, urge the General Services Administration to come up with a plan to modernize the Vote.gov website, and mandate measures to improve voting access for federal employees, foreign voters and active service members.