A new executive order signed by President Joe Biden directs federal agencies to take a series of steps to promote voting access.
The move comes as Republicans in many states are pushing for stricter voting requirements, while Democrats are saying those moves are the equivalent of voter suppression.
“Election officials in 43 states have already introduced over 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We can not let them succeed,” said Biden, who signed the order 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.
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 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.
Congressional 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.
It’s designed to stifle what Republican-led state legislatures like those in Florida and Georgia are doing.
Duval County GOP Chairman Dean Black said changes need to happen to improve election security in Florida.
“Because we have a lot of voters who do not trust the election system right now, and we need to have a system in place that we can show the country that works,” Black said.
State Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, said the Republican moves on the state level are blatant partisanship and meant to keep voters from the ballot box.
“This is all political. This has nothing to do with fixing problems. But clearly it’s about the reelection of Ron DeSantis because Democrats got people out to vote in large, large numbers,” Taddeo said.
Georgia Republicans have already made more headway in election reform. House Bill 531, which passed the lower legislative chamber by a vote of 97-72, would add requirements for absentee ballots and limits ballot drop boxes.
Some civil rights groups are calling on Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta to join the fight against the legislation.