Biden to sign order to make voting easier on Selma march anniversary
People march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to mark the 1965 'Bloody Sunday' attack on civil rights activists
People march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to mark the 1965 'Bloody Sunday' attack on civil rights activists

Washington (AFP) - US President Joe Biden will sign an executive order to make it easier for Americans to vote to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" civil rights march when peaceful activists were attacked by police in Selma, Alabama.

Biden's move comes as several Republican-controlled state legislatures push to curtail voting access in response to Donald Trump's election loss and his repeated false claims of election fraud.

It also directs the federal chief information officer to improve or modernize federal websites that provide election and voting information.

"Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting," Biden will say in pre-taped remarks to be made at the Martin and Coretta King unity breakfast on Sunday.

"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."

The breakfast marks the anniversary of the 1965 march in Selma when hundreds of peaceful protesters were beaten and tear-gassed by police and state troopers.

The brutal suppression catalyzed support for Black rights and a few months later the Voting Rights Act was passed.

"The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as a citizen, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away," Biden said.

Efforts to undermine the 2020 election results and the January 6 attack on the Capitol were now being followed "by an all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country," he said.

"During the current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced more than 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote.

"We cannot let them succeed."

On Wednesday the House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at lowering voting barriers nationwide, a top Democratic priority.

The For the People Act would expand no-excuse voting by mail, make voter registration automatic, outlaw partisan redistricting and impose new requirements on so-called dark money donations to political groups.

The bill now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain fate in a chamber divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

His order directs federal agencies to submit a "strategic plan" within 200 days outlining ways they can promote voter registration and participation.