President Joe Biden used the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” to issue an executive order on voting rights and boost Americans’ access to voter registration services.

The president also urged Congress members to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late congressman, which would restore critical provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – specifically where states and counties with a history of discrimination were forced to receive federal approval to enact new voting laws.

“The right to vote is the foundation of American democracy,” Biden said during the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast on Sunday. “Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended.

“But many Americans, especially people of color, confront significant obstacles to exercising that fundamental right,” he said. “These obstacles include difficulties with voter registration, lack of election information, and barriers to access at polling places.

“For generations, Black voters and other voters of color have faced discriminatory policies and other obstacles that disproportionally affect their communities,” Biden said. “These voters remain more likely to face long lines at the polls and are disproportionately burdened by voter identification laws and limited opportunities to vote by mail.”

The president signed the order while observing the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when, on March 7, 1965, Alabama state troopers attacked peaceful demonstrators led by the late Rep. John Lewis. They were fighting for voting rights as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Biden’s order directs federal agencies to submit to the White House plans to outline ways to boost voter registration and participation.

The order also directs federal agencies to help states with voter registration efforts and modernize

Earlier legislation passed by the U.S. House would create automatic voter registration and expand absentee voting, measures Republicans have fought to deny.

“The Constitution and laws of the United States prohibit racial discrimination and protect the right to vote,” Biden said. “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other federal statutes implement those protections and assign the federal government a key role in remedying disenfranchisement and unequal access to the polls.

“On this day of reflection, please, let us stay focused on the work ahead,” he said. “Let us remember all those who came before us as a bridge to our history, so we do not forget its pain, and as a bridge to our future, so we never lose our hope.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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