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President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Sunday in a move the White House said would expand voting access for Americans.
Biden announced the order on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, commemorating the 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery. During the march, the protesters were violently attacked.
“Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting,” Biden said in a virtual message to the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”
The order is largely short on specifics and orders federal agencies to do more analysis and drafting of plans than take any concrete steps related to elections and voting that are not already authorized under law. The first act of the order, according to a White House summary, is to “direct federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information.”
The order directs the Office of Personnel Management to come up with a strategy to increase federal workers’ access to polling places and means of voting. The order directs the office director to come up with a policy of paid leave for federal employees to presumably take a day off to vote or take more off to volunteer as a poll worker.
The order also authorizes an overhaul of the vote.gov website “to modernize and improve the user experience of the federal government’s premier source of voting-related information,” according to the White House.
Biden’s order comes as GOP-led states are taking steps to restructure and strengthen voting processes against opportunities for fraud. The 2020 election saw numerous allegations of voter fraud and wide voter mistrust in election processes, and officials in states such as Florida are pushing voter reforms to cut down on controversial practices such as mail-in voting. Biden attacked those efforts in his speech to the unity breakfast.
“An all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country [is] happening right now. During the current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced more than 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We cannot let them succeed,” Biden said.
Biden’s order comes on the heels of sweeping voting rights legislation passed in the U.S. House. The Democrat-backed legislation would substantially overhaul U.S. elections, which are almost entirely run at the state-level, by federalizing many aspects of voting, such as implementing a ban on limits to mail-in voting.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit that works to preserve religious freedom, slammed the bill, titled H.R. 1.
“Throughout its nearly 800 pages of complex and convoluted text, H.R. 1 imposes unworkable and invasive regulations on the ability of individual Americans and groups of citizens to discuss vital policy issues with elected officials or the public and to exercise constitutionally protected freedoms,” ADF said. “The bill intrudes upon the private financial decisions made by everyday citizens, subjecting them to harassment and intimidation simply for giving to causes they care about.”