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Biden marking 'Bloody Sunday' by signing voting rights order

John Lewis
Posted at 7:59 AM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-07 16:53:16-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new executive order from President Joe Biden directs federal agencies to take a series of steps to promote voting access.

The order comes as congressional Democrats press for a sweeping voting and elections bill to counter efforts to restrict voting access.

His plan was being announced during a recorded address 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.

“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted,” Biden says in his prepared remarks to Sunday’s Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”

Bloody Sunday proved to be a turning point in the civil rights movement that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Similarly, Biden is hoping the Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Donald Trump mob will prove to be a clarion call for Congress to take action to improve voter protections.

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 federal 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.

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.