Administration

Federal agencies submit plans to improve voting access after Biden order

More than a dozen federal agencies on Tuesday submitted actions they will take to strengthen voting access after President Biden called on them to do so amid difficulty getting voting rights legislation through Congress.

Various departments announced steps to encourage voter registration and improve ballot access in response to an executive order Biden signed in March. The announcements coincided with National Voter Registration Day and came as the Biden administration has looked for ways to fortify voting rights as legislation to do so has run into a brick wall in the Senate.

"In the coming months, we will work with agencies to further build out their capacity to provide relevant information to the public, help eligible voters better understand their opportunities for engagement, and facilitate participation in the electoral process," White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice said in a statement. "It is vital that we make it easier for all Americans to vote, and this is an important step by the Administration to do just that."

Many of the steps announced Tuesday were focused on increasing access to information and voter registration materials for groups that face additional barriers to voting.

The Department of Agriculture said it will take steps to promote access to voter registration forms and other election information through its rural development agencies, which help Americans living in rural areas apply for housing and business assistance.

The Pentagon announced it would develop materials in additional languages to ensure service members and their families, including those who have never voted before, are up to date on how to register and vote.

The Department of the Interior said it would disseminate voter registration information at schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education and Tribal Colleges and Universities in an effort to reach more of the roughly 30,000 students who attend those schools.

The Department of Education intends to develop a tool kit aimed at increasing civic engagement at all levels of schooling, while the General Services Administration will aim to improve vote.gov to make it more user-friendly.

The moves come as a number of state legislatures have made moves to pass a number of voting restrictions.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in March signed legislation that would make it illegal for people to provide water and food for voters waiting in line before casting their ballots, comparing giving food and water to giving gifts to voters. Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) also signed a bill to increase the requirements for identification that voters must show when they cast a ballot, among other provisions. 

Biden has faced intense pressure from progressives and voting rights advocates to do more to push Congress to pass voting rights protections. The White House has pledged to do all it can to unilaterally strengthen voting access, but advocates have pushed for Biden to back the elimination or alteration of the Senate filibuster to pave the way for federal legislation.

Vice President Harris, whom Biden tasked with leading efforts to combat state-level voting restrictions, visited George Mason University on Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day.

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