Biden Signs EO That Removes Obstacles To Voting

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

The main purpose of Biden's new Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting is to remedy "the discriminatory policies and other obstacles" that disproportionately affect Black voters and voters of other colors. The order aims to "ensure that registering to vote and the act of voting be made simple and easy for all those eligible to do so."

President Biden appeared Sunday in a pre-recorded video message that addressed his recent Executive Order (EO), where he stated that "elected officials in 43 states have already introduced over 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We cannot let them succeed." The text of his remarks, given on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, can be found here.

If the aforementioned bills are anything like those proposed in recent omnibus legislation that seeks to rebuild election integrity as reported by UncoverDC on March 3, then Biden may not be completely correct in his characterization of the intentions of the elected officials in those 43 states. Most of those bills seem to aim to strengthen voter confidence by clarifying election rules so that state officials can't as easily circumvent state legislatures as they did in the 2020 election.

He also mentioned H.R.1, "a landmark piece of legislation" that was recently passed in the House. H.R.1 effectively "federalizes and micromanages the election process administered by the states," according to a Jan. 25 UncoverDC report on the bill.

The Executive Order states the need to expand access to "opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process." It seems to effectively reinforce legislation that would legitimize some of the actions and rule changes that were seen in the 2020 election by states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. For example, the mass mail-in ballots could potentially become standard operating procedure in future elections.

Section Three, Part A of the EO states that a priority of the administration will be to  "distribute[e] voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot application forms, and provide[e]access to applicable State online systems for individuals who can take advantage of those systems." Organizations would be employed to assist in "completing voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot application forms." There is evidence that such assistance can potentially become coercive, as seen in Texas when an election worker was arrested for unlawfully assisting people who were voting by mail, as reported in January by UncoverDC or as seen in Wisconsin with their absentee ballots.

Other mentioned recommendations have to do with Native Americans. An Interagency Steering Group on Native American Voting Rights has been formed. The committee will aim to "increase voter outreach, education, registration, and turnout in Native American communities." That outreach will also examine "guidance on how to facilitate the use of Tribal government identification cards as valid voter identification in Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial elections." 

Voting procedures for people with disabilities may also change. The EO requests analysis of "barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training." The Military and Americans overseas may also have easy access to online systems "to register to vote in Federal elections, update voter registration information, or request an absentee ballot."

The EO also states a priority to ensure that Federal workers vote, "granting employees time off to vote in Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial elections. Such recommendations should include efforts to ensure Federal employees have opportunities to participate in early voting." Federal jails will also be required "to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to facilitate voting by mail, to the extent practicable and appropriate."

H.R.1 weakens what the Biden administration deems to be "restrictive state voter identification laws" and will require automatic voter registration, expand mail-in voting and early voting, restore voting rights to former felons, and make it more difficult to eliminate voters from the rolls. The timely failure to purge Dirty voter rolls is often one of the reasons elections do not accurately reflect the will of the electorate.  Many of the aforementioned H.R.1 changes were not directly referenced in Biden's Executive Order. A timeline of actions on the For The People Act of 2021 bill (first proposed in March of 2019) can be found here.

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