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President Joe Biden marked the 56-year anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama by signing an executive order to protect and strengthen nationwide voting access, while calling on states to expand voting rights for all eligible Americans.
The order was described by the White House as an “initial step” towards securing voting rights just days after the passage of HR1, legislation focusing on expanding access to mail-in voting and making it easier for Americans to register to vote.
In prepared remarks, the president said: “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted.”
He added: “If you have the best ideas – you have nothing to hide. Let more people vote.”
The right to vote is sacred and fundamental — and H.R. 1 is urgently needed to protect that right, to safeguard the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy. I look forward to signing it into law after it has passed through the legislative process.
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 4, 2021
Mr Biden’s latest order sought to modernise the government voter registration website Vote.gov and directed federal agencies to begin sharing additional information about mail-in voting access and voter registration across social media and on their own sites.
The action comes as civil rights advocates and Americans across the country reflect on the anniversary of the 1965 march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that descended into violence as demonstrators were attacked by white Alabama state troopers.
The peaceful demonstrators were attempting to begin a march in support of voting rights from Selma to Montgomery. Many have attributed the day with sparking national outcry and a focus on the issues that eventually led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
On Sunday, Mr Biden attended the annual Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast in Selma, where he delivered the remarks before signing the executive order.
“In 2020 – with our very democracy on the line – even in the midst of a pandemic – more Americans voted than ever before,” Mr Biden said. “Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting, we saw an unprecedented insurrection on our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never-before-seen effort to ignore, undermine and undo the will of the people.”
Mr Biden also tweeted a message of support for HR1 during the weekend, writing: “The right to vote is sacred and fundamental – and H.R. 1 is urgently needed to protect that right, to safeguard the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy.”
He added: “I look forward to signing it into law after it has passed through the legislative process.”