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Biden’s Voter Access Order: Civil Rights Boon or Partisan Ploy?

Ending non-existent voter suppression, one federal agency at a time.

by | Jun 17, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

Was Joe Biden’s 2021 executive order promoting “access to voting” a boon for civil rights, or a partisan play to whip up Democrat voters? That’s the question Representative Bryan Steil (R-WI), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, hopes to answer with the subpoenas he sent Thursday, June 13, to 15 members of the president’s Cabinet.

Political Power Plays

President Biden signed Executive Order 14019 on “promoting access to voting” in March of 2021, ordering every federal agency to draft a strategic plan detailing how they can promote voter registration and participation. Biden and the Democrats tout this as a way to overcome voter suppression in minority communities and guarantee that more Americans cast their votes.

Republicans, however, have two concerns. First, the plans made public so far seem to only target demographics that tend to vote Democrat, which strikes some as a case of federal agencies campaigning for the re-election of their boss. As Liberty Nation News’ Leesa K. Donner reported, “Many conservatives believe this executive order’s foundation originated in a memo from the left-leaning think tank Dēmos. Their plan – which is strikingly similar to the actual EO – estimates that utilizing federal agency resources could yield as many as 3.5 million voters added to the rolls.” Second, it requires tax-funded agencies to spend congressionally appropriated funding for purposes other than what Congress designated for them.

One of the problems, of course, is that no one seems to know what many of these various strategic plans will entail. Hence the subpoenas. So is this executive order, as many conservatives suggest, just a scheme to mobilize Democrat voters? Or does the president’s plan open voting access to all? To answer the question, let’s look at the order itself and what has been done already.

Pulling the Race Card

“Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended,” the order reads. “But many Americans, especially people of color, confront significant obstacles to exercising that fundamental right.” The president went on to describe how the obstacles include difficulty with voter registration, lack of election information, and barriers to access at polling places. Black voters face long lines and are “disproportionally burdened by voter identification laws,” the order explains. Are these really issues faced exclusively by black people, or are they issues faced by everyone in the area?

Consider the long lines. If white and black people were forced to vote in separate polling places, or if black people were sent to the back of the line to let white people ahead of them, that would be a valid case of discriminatory policies aimed at black voters. Barring that, however, the long lines in densely populated urban areas affect black and non-black residents the same. Conversely, black people in rural areas don’t have to stand in line any longer than their white neighbors.

The same is true for ID requirements. Most adults have a driver’s license – or, at the very least, a photo ID. Without one, they can’t legally drive, buy age-restricted stuff, get a job, open a bank account, or rent or buy a house. Is there a big ID shortage amongst unemployed homeless people? Maybe – but even then, it isn’t dependent upon race. “Difficulties with voter registration” and “lack of election information” apply across the board as well. How do white people go about registering and finding out who’s running for what, what issues are on the ballot, and where and when to vote? From the big city to the small town, from the suburb to the wilds, white people find these answers the same way black people do: They make a phone call, go online, or walk into an office.

Promoting Access – But Not for Every Voter

As for what the Biden administration has already done to further this lofty goal of expanding voting rights, a clear trend has emerged. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was directed to have more than 3,000 public housing authorities hold registration drives, and the Department of Agriculture was ordered to issue letters to state agencies that administer SNAP and WIC programs with instructions to carry out voter-registration programs.

In short, the Biden administration is focusing on recipients of various welfare benefits – a demographic well known to back Democrats more so than Republicans. “Democrats see a massive advantage among voters enrolled in welfare programs like food stamps and Medicaid,” a report from the Opportunity Solutions Project explained. “In fact, Democrats see their margins increase by more than 30 points among voters enrolled in welfare compared to low-income voters who have never been on welfare.”

Might the strategy of some other federal agency target voters more likely to be conservatives? Will other departments take a less partisan approach than USDA and HUD? Perhaps – but what has been made public so far looks a lot like the Democrat voter mobilization scheme Republicans say it is.

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