As the President said when recognizing the tragic injustice of the Tulsa race massacre, the “sacred right [to vote] is under assault with an incredible intensity,” in a manner that is “simply un-American” but sadly, not unprecedented. And he called for a redoubling of efforts to expand voting rights and overcome the surge in efforts to undermine the right to vote of so many Americans through anti-voter laws that are motivated by a dangerous lie – a lie that motivated the unprecedented assault on our Capitol on January 6th, that cost the lives of brave law enforcement officers, and that has been disproven by over 80 federal judges appointed by Presidents of both parties and bipartisan election official across the country.
Plain and simple, these voter suppression laws are meant to attack Americans’ constitutional rights — especially people of color — and that is absolutely unacceptable to the President. He ran to restore the soul of America, and to address the four principal crises facing our nation – one of which is racial justice.
In office, the President has taken unprecedented action to advance voting rights and defend this sacred right. And he recently named Vice President Harris to take charge of a new, intensified campaign on this issue, signifying its vital importance to this administration.
Voting rights have been at the core of his agenda for his entire time in public life. In the Senate he was indispensable to expanding access to the franchise, securing a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act – when Strom Thurmond chaired the Judiciary Committee. And in the Senate, Vice President Harris was a leader on voting rights legislation and built a very strong record on the issue as Attorney General of California.
In addition to today’s major announcements by Attorney General Garland – including that the Department of Justice will within 30 days double the staff of its Civil Rights Division for protecting the right to vote — here are the actions the administration has taken on voting rights since taking office:
- On the anniversary of the brutal attacks on civil rights protesters crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, the President signed an historic executive order which took far-reaching actions to expand voting access and protect the freedom to vote using every executive authority available to make voting easier, more accessible, and fairer.
- This order directed federal agencies, in a whole-of-government effort, to expand access to voter registration and election information; put themselves in the best position to assist states under the National Voter Registration Act; improve and modernize Vote.gov; increase federal employees’ access to voting; analyze barriers to voting for people with disabilities; increase voting access for active duty military and other overseas voters; and establish a Native American voting rights steering group.
- The President also nominated and won hard-fought confirmation for some of the most qualified civil rights leaders to ever have senior posts at the Department of Justice, including Vanita Gupta as the first woman of color to serve as the Associate Attorney General and Kristen Clarke as the first Black woman to lead the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. And the President is taking steps to ensure DOJ the resources needed to enforce existing laws.
- The President and Vice President are fighting for legislation,. That includes the For the People Act, which would set basic national standards for fair voting access in federal elections, and help ensure the ethical conduct of those elected to office. And it includes the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would stop racial discrimination in our elections before that discrimination has the chance to take effect.
- When he became the first president to travel to Tulsa to mark the history of the terrible massacre on Black Wall Street, he named Vice President Harris to lead a new, specific effort to fight for voting rights. Her strategy is to use the bully pulpit to build additional public support on top of the bipartisan majorities that already back our voting rights agenda. She’s using the power of the White House to convene key stakeholders, and will be hosting several next week. And she’ll continue to fight for our key bills.