President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order to boost voter registration and voting access on Sunday, the 56th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.
The Democratic president looking to use the historic day to continue the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King (who was killed before the march) and the late Representative John Lewis (who participated in it) to expand voter rights to Black Americans.
“The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as a citizen, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away,” Biden said to those who attended the signing ceremony.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order Sunday directing the federal government to promote voting access in a move meant to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches for civil rights. https://t.co/SzYJtTd6lO
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) March 7, 2021
As USA Today reports, the Selma march on March 7, 1965, was where Lewis and more than 100 peaceful protesters were met by a violent police force on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
“The protesters were tear-gassed and beaten. Lewis’ skull was fractured,” the report adds.
According to the report, Biden gave special recognition to civil rights icons Reverend C.T. Vivian, Reverend Joseph Lowery and Lewis, all of whom died last year.
“Architects of the ‘Beloved Community,’ they built not only with words but with action. And reminders that in our lifetime, for Black Americans, the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy hiding both behind white hoods and in plain sight in statehouses and courtrooms,” Biden added.
USA Today reports Biden’s executive order will also:
- Direct federal agencies to assist states with voter registration efforts under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
- Order the General Services Administration to improve and modernize the federal voter registration website Vote.gov.
- Order recommendations on leave for federal employees allowing them to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers
- Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to evaluate and publish recommendations on steps needed to ensure the online federal voter registration form is accessible to people with disabilities.
- Direct Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to establish procedures to annually offer each member of the armed forces the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections, update voter registration or request an absentee ballot.
- Direct the attorney general to establish procedures to provide educational materials on voter registration and voting for all eligible individuals in federal prisons or on probation by federal court.
- Establish a Native American voting rights steering group that will work with tribal organizations to identify best practices to protect voting rights of Native Americans