Federal Agencies Unveil Plans to Combat “Anti-Voter Burdens” Faced by People of Color
In response to President Joe Biden’s governmentwide directive to eliminate “anti-voter burdens” and “significant obstacles” that prevent people of color from voting, more than a dozen federal agencies have announced unprecedented initiatives that could conveniently result in more votes for Democrats. The agencies concocted their unconventional voter outreach plan after Biden issued an Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting in early March. It directs the federal government to leverage its vast resources to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting. Under the mandate all agencies must submit a strategic plan outlining ways to promote voter registration and participation to White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, who served as National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Barack Obama.
“The right to vote is the foundation of American democracy,” Biden’s March executive order states. “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. 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. 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. Limited access to language assistance remains a barrier for many voters.” The order also mentions barriers faced by people with disabilities who are denied legally required accommodations and military personnel serving overseas.
In a preview of what is coming, 14 agencies recently disclosed the steps they are taking in response to the president’s call for “an all-of-government action to promote voting access and to further the ability of all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.” In a lengthy announcement, the White House claims the “strategic plans” are just the beginning of each agency’s commitment and that the agencies will further build out their capacity to help voters better understand “opportunities for engagement” as well as “facilitate participation in the electoral process” in the months to come. Much of the planning will center on the findings of Vice President Kamala Harris’ months-long engagement with voting populations “that have been historically marginalized” as well as civil and voting rights advocacy groups. The administration has also partnered with civil rights organizations, according to the White House release, and has appointed “strong civil rights leadership at the Department of Justice.”
Here is a preview of the preliminary steps government agencies are taking to combat so-called “anti-voter burdens.” The Department of Justice (DOJ) will provide voting information and facilitate voting for federal inmates and educate ex-cons before reentry about voting rules and rights in their state. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will furnish voter registration information and services to around 1.2 million public housing units nationwide and improve voting registration and voting access to the homeless. The Department of Labor (DOL) plans to designate thousands of employment training centers in every state as voter registration agencies and require the centers to enroll voters and serve as polling precincts. The Education Department is going to prepare a tool kit of resources and strategies for civic engagement for the nation’s elementary and high schools as well as colleges so more than 67 million students and their families learn about “civic opportunities and responsibilities.” The Treasury Department will include voter registration and participation materials in direct deposit campaigns for Americans who receive federal benefits such as Social Security. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Housing Service is having its offices, borrowers and guaranteed lenders push voter information. Federal transportation officials want to place voter registration materials in high-transit stations and the Department of Defense (DOD) is going to develop voting materials in “additional languages.” This is just the beginning.