President Joe Biden leaves Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington on March 6, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
BY IVAN PENTCHOUKOV
March 7, 2021
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on March 7 altering the way the federal government handles elections, including by increasing voting and voter registration access for criminals in prison and on probation.
“The order will direct the Attorney General to establish procedures to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to the extent practicable, to facilitate voter registration, for all eligible individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons,” a fact sheet distributed by the White House states.
The order also directs the attorney general to help former prisoners obtain appropriate identification to satisfy state voting requirements. Biden is also asking the U.S. Marshals Service to include language in its contracts to facilitate voting by mail and provide eligible criminals information on voting and voter registration.
The order is meant “to promote voting access” by leveraging “the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting,” the White House fact sheet states.
“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote,” Biden said March 7 in his remarks to the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast before signing the order.
The order also directs the heads of federal agencies to prepare a plan in the next 200 days for how their agencies can promote voter registration. Potential action items in the plan could include the distribution of mail-in ballot and voter registration applications at agency events and the use of agency websites to promote voter registration.
The order further directs federal agencies to take steps to become formal voter registration agencies under the National Voting Registration Act (NVRA). State agencies, like departments of motor vehicles, already serve the same function, and the NVRA allows for federal agencies to do the same at a state’s request. The executive order directs the federal agencies to assess how they can help with voter registration and to notify states that they’re available to help.
The order directs the modernization of the Vote.gov website, including the site’s accessibility and user experience.
Biden is ordering the “director of the Office of Personnel Management to work with the head of federal agencies to provide recommendations to the president regarding leave for federal employees to vote or to volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, ensuring that the federal government serves as a model to other employers.”
The order further directs the federal government to analyze what barriers to voting people with disabilities have and to “increase voting access for active-duty military and other overseas voters” and to “establish a Native American voting rights steering group.”