As Georgia state Republicans enacted a "dangerous" voter suppression law, a broad coalition of racial justice and civil rights advocates on Thursday applauded a recent executive order signed by Presisdent Joe Biden to improve voting access, while urging his administration and the federal government to "act aggressively" to accomplish the directive's goals.
"The Anchor Collaborative commends this executive order's commitment to promoting equitable access to voter education and registration while centering Indigenous voting rights and ensuring those in federal custody have ample information to exercise their right to vote."
—Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative
The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative, which calls itself "the foremost diverse coalition of national racial justice and civil rights organizations representing and serving more than 53 million people in the United States," issued a statement hailing Biden's order.
"The Anchor Collaborative commends this executive order's commitment to promoting equitable access to voter education and registration while centering Indigenous voting rights and ensuring those in federal custody have ample information to exercise their right to vote, where possible," the statement said.
Biden issued his order on March 7, the 56th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." On that day in 1965, hundreds of civil rights acivists setting out on a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery were viciously attacked by Alabama state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)—then chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)—was beaten nearly to death while helping to lead the peaceful demonstration for voting rights.
Congress passed, and then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed, the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965—which banned the racist disenfranchisement of Black Americans that was still rampant throughout the South—five months later.
This year's Bloody Sunday commemoration was the first without Lewis, who died last July after battling pancreatic cancer at the age of 81.
While introducing his executive order, Biden noted "significant obstacles" to the polls, including "discriminatory policies" affecting Black voters.
"It is our duty to ensure that registering to vote and the act of voting be made simple and easy for all those eligible to do so," he said.
President Biden marked the anniversary of the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday’ march in Selma, Alabama, by issuing an executive order designed to expand voting access, as Republican lawmakers seek to curb voting rights in the wake of the 2020 election https://t.co/6jU8X5eOnw pic.twitter.com/wUTLhRgE9H
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 8, 2021
The Anchor Collaborative called Biden's order "just a first step in the pursuit of a vision of democracy that honors and protects every American's right to vote." The coalition urged Biden to "ensure that federal agencies act aggressively to achieve the aims" of his order.
The collaborative's statement urged the U.S. government to ensure that:
- Voter registration gaps, particularly for voters of color and young voters, are closed;
- Voter outreach and education campaigns are robust, accessible, in-language, and multicultural;
- The path to voting is unobstructed, centering the lived experiences of historically marginalized and disenfranchised voters of color; and
- Pro-voter measures including those restoring federal oversight of state elections, as codified in H.R. 1 and H.R. 4, are implemented to thwart... discriminatory voting measures.
"We further call upon Congress to continue the fight to eliminate barriers to voting by affirmative voting acts, and a modern Native American Voting Rights Act," the coalition added.
Noting the gradual erosion of the Voting Rights Act in recent decades, and that "barriers to the ballot, far from being bygone relics of our history, are indeed alive and well in 2021," the collaborative urged Biden's administration to "follow steps for robust implementation of this order to fulfill his promise of ensuring that registering to vote and voting are simple and easy for all eligible voters, and to develop clear metrics on voter registration, voter intimidation, language access, and turnout among voters of color."