By Domestic Policy Advisor Susan E. Rice
Today is National Voter Registration Day, when eligible Americans are asked to register to vote and confirm they are registered at the correct address. The right to vote and the counting of one’s own vote are fundamental principles of our democracy. From their first days in office, President Biden and Vice President Harris have mobilized the entire federal government to strengthen our democracy and protect voters from oppression and subversion.
Indecently, state legislatures across the country have enacted laws that make voting difficult. Recent Supreme Court rulings have made it even more difficult to tackle discrimination. To defend themselves against these deeply troubling attacks on voting rights, President Biden and Vice President Harris have repeatedly called on the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — including calling for Senate rules to be changed to to prevent a minority of senators from blocking measures to protect this fundamental right.
In the meantime, the Biden-Harris administration remains committed to using every means at its disposal to protect the sacred right to vote. On March 7, 2021, the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Biden signed an executive order directing efforts across the government to promote access to voting. The agencies are working to implement this order and have recently taken the following steps:
- The National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “Motor Voter” Act, requires entities such as state motor vehicle departments to function as such One stop hubs for voter registrationto ensure Americans register smoothly, conveniently, and in exactly the right place to vote when they are already completing other government documents. President Biden’s executive order directed federal agencies to seek state designation as NVRA voter registration agencies whenever possible. Now, for the first time, federal programs have been designated by states as voter registration agencies.
- Today the Veterans Affairs Department announces an upcoming three-state partnership to provide voter registration assistance and information to veterans and their families and caregivers while accessing services at VA healthcare facilities. The Department is poised to accept the NVRA voter registration agency designation requested by Kentucky and Michigan and will serve as the voter registration distribution agency in Pennsylvania to provide voter registration materials and information to veterans, their families and carers.
- In May, Kansas named Haskell Indian Nations University, operated by the interior ministry, as the NVRA Voter Registration Agency—the first federal program ever so designated by a state. In July, followed by a formal proclamation in September, New Mexico designated Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, also operated by Interior as a post-secondary institution of the Bureau of Indian Education, as the NVRA voter registration agency, making it the second federal program ever designated this fashion. These designations ensure that students at any college can also register to vote at the same time they enroll in the school – seamlessly, accurately and securely.
- vote.gov introduces a range of new language offerings, expands voter registration information and improves access to that information. Vote.gov now offers information in 10 languages other than English: Bengali, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese and – as the first of several upcoming Native American and Alaskan languages - Yup’ I k. More information on plans to make vote.gov more robust and user-friendly can be found here.
- That Ministry of Justice has created an easy-to-access, plain-language guide for 50 states and the District of Columbia that also describes each state’s voting rules for criminal convicts. The guide takes readers through a series of questions to help them understand how each state’s laws work and provides information on how to reach officials in a specific state to register to vote and to ask questions. The Department has also produced an easy-to-understand guide to federal suffrage laws. This guide provides basic information about the voter registration process, describes some rights available to voters under federal law, and provides additional resources for voters seeking more information about how federal law protects voting rights.
- That General Service Management has issued guides for managers of federally owned public buildings that explain the conditions under which federal land may be made available for bipartisan voter registration campaigns by 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
- That Department for work recently reminded state human resource development agencies of their guidance and technical support to states seeking NVRA designation for American job centers and the other ways that department-funded programs can help with voter registration. In the memoir, Indiana — which years ago referred to American job centers as voter registration agencies — was singled out as an example to help others follow suit.
Authorities across the administration will continue to implement President Biden’s executive order with their own agencies and introduce new initiatives as they are ready to promote information about the election process and encourage election participation. Today and every day, the Biden-Harris administration is committed to making the voting process smoother and more accessible for every eligible American.