Washington, March 7 (AFP/APP):US President Joe Biden on Sunday signed an executive order aimed at making it easier for Americans to vote at a time when new limits on their right to do so are pending in statehouses across the country.
He announced the order in a pretaped speech marking the anniversary of the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, when peaceful Black marchers were attacked by police. That brutal suppression brought national attention to the issue of voting rights.
“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.
“Let the people vote.”
Biden’s move comes as several Republican-controlled state legislatures push to curtail voting access in response to Donald Trump’s election loss and his repeated false claims of election fraud.
It also comes four days after the US House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill aimed at lowering voting barriers nationwide, a top Democratic priority but one stoutly opposed by Republicans.
The For the People Act would expand no-excuse voting by mail, make voter registration automatic, outlaw partisan redistricting and impose new requirements on so-called dark money donations to political groups.
But the bill, which Biden supports, faces a deeply uncertain fate, needing 60 votes to move forward in a Senate divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.
Biden’s order makes clear that voting rights are an administration priority, ordering all federal agencies to review ways to improve voting practices, with a particular focus on voters with disabilities, the incarcerated and other underserved groups.
But it contains few concrete and immediate changes and might have limited impact on the efforts in Republican states to restrict voting practices.
“The president doesn’t have the executive authority to prevent a state from taking that kind of action,” an administration official said in a briefing Saturday.
The order directs federal agencies to submit a “strategic plan” within 200 days outlining ways they can promote voter registration and participation.
It also directs the federal chief information officer to improve or modernize federal websites that provide election and voting information.
In his remarks Sunday, Biden said efforts to undermine the 2020 election results, which led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, were now being followed “by an all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country.”
“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.”
If the president’s influence over state laws is limited, the administration briefer said he is doing all he can.
“He’s leaving no cards on the table,” she said.
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