The year is now 2021 and incredibly we still have to remind our fellow Americans about the continuing, centuries long struggle for basic voting rights that should be afforded to every citizen in the United States. To this end, I would like to highlight this newest addition to the voting rights saga with President Biden’s latest executive order that was signed just this past Sunday. This was targeted with the intent of promoting voting rights amidst a Republican led repudiation of voting access stemming from the previous resident-in-chief’s loss at the voting polls. The date that the executive order was signed with also universally symbolic in that it was also the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, a tragic event that saw state troopers violently beat hundreds of African American citizens marching in solidarity with the likes of civil rights leaders such as John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Was it any wonder why President Biden wanted to make a statement given the date he chose to sign off on the order on this specific historic day? Of course, it was to remind leaders in Congress that access to voting is a bas guaranteed civil right that should be always safeguarded regardless of political bias, affiliation, or creed. President Biden made a recorded address to the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast in stating that “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 executive order directs federal agencies to develop strategic plans to address the promoting of voter registration and participation, with the implication of applying to be a state-designated voter registration agency and the provision of recommendations regarding leave policies for federal employees to vote or even serve as poll workers. States are already ahead of the curve in that they have programs that automatically registers their eligible citizens to vote unless they choose to opt out when visiting their state bureau of motor vehicles or departments of public safety agencies which also offer other initiatives including selective service, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits. The previous administration made a point to make federal agencies refuse to make any data available which could have enabled states to register voters in this manner under the pretext that it would not be permissible due to “health concerns”.
We all know this to be quite the contrary, but that is par for the course when it came to their policies. This new executive order relaxes those policies and even goes as far to expand voting access for active serving members of the military as well as eligible federally incarcerated citizens. Additionally, the order also created a steering group to address issues with Native American voting rights to expand voter turnouts in Native communities within and outside federal reservations.
Imagine, there are Republican representatives who are supposed to be your voice in government that constantly tout their patriotism over the airwaves and yet they continue to clamor against the idea of expanding the rights of one of the basic freedoms that they have yet to truly concede to the American minorities in general. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that isn’t what you are paying your tax dollars into their pockets for. No one should be profiting from barring the door shut on your civil liberties let alone brag about such actions in the media. The House of Representatives passed expansive legislation that would overhaul current campaign finance laws and outlaw partisan redistricting in addition to setting uniform standards for voting. H.R. 1 is an apparent threatening piece of legislation to the GOP who would chomp at the bit to stop it dead in its tracks in the Senate. My question would have to be if this is what they were elected for? Is it so terrible to make voting provisions to guarantee no-excuse mail in voting along with 15 days of early voting for federal elections? Is it so much of a threat to basic democracy that HALF of the US Senate feels the need to fend off any thwart to their incumbency? Personally, this type of response smells of cowardice and to go even further…it is an insult to minorities who have consistently over the years had to fight tooth and nail to simply be given the same basic access to voting rights as anyone else. To bar those that have served their time within incarceration from being once again an active participant in society with a right to cast a ballot? Have we no sense of decency left in our political opposition? The blatant racism in the previous resident-in-chief’s words at the recent CPAC featuring an obvious Nazi symbol for a stage summed up the overall thought process for the GOP when he alleged that Democrats wanted to register all welfare recipients to vote. I believe that some of those recipients are also Republican voters, and if they feel comfortable shaming their own constituents then I feel they have a lot to answer for should they hold the position that citizens applying for basic assistance with groceries ought to not have the basic right to have a vote in their government institutions. None of the GOP voted for H.R.1 in 2019 let alone 2021 where it passed 220-210.
We are quite possibly in a more divided place in America, not to the extreme as it was before the Civil War ensued but it is getting to a borderline that is no longer comfortable nor should it be continued to be tolerated. I believe that the time to extend the olive branch of reason and forming a dialogue with those individuals across the aisle is upon us. We MUST take a moral stand here for common decency to defend those who cannot vocally or politically defend themselves. This is what separates us from the predators, and we cannot idly sit by and merely chatter about what ought to be done or post constant articles or opinions on social media that should have been better spent in person with real actions that would have made all of the difference in our precincts…our communities. Selfless service is often more talked about than being enacted, and it is my hope that you readers out there will take the gut check to challenge yourself to come up with a message that might resonate with your opposition on the other aisle. Isolating yourself from opposition doesn’t make you less like your counterpart, it only makes you more similar. Robert F. Kennedy once took a trip out to Southern communities where he endured the worse criticisms imaginable, and he came away all the better for it. I believe that we have the capacity to follow that example if we remember what our civil rights leaders gave up for us all simply to arrive at this particular precipice in time. Now is the time for more action with words instead of making words that have never seen action.