Biden and Voting Rights: Can the Biden Administration Make a Difference to Our Right to Make a Difference?
If you ask Americans what their most sacred right is, you will get a variety of answers. The first two on the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, are a no-brainer; they’re synonymous with the U.S. as a whole. Some might say that amendments thirteen through fifteen are the most important, as no one is truly free until we’re all free.
Sometimes you’ll just get a non-answer, such as “they’re all equally important”. In our opinion, the most sacred right we have is our right to vote; the democratic right to choose whom we trust to lead the American people, for better or for worse. It’s one that has been hotly debated since its conception as a wealth-led machine to help shape the newly-formed nation of the United States. Since then, we has made tons of progress in making sure every American has the right to vote, but not without some pushback. Those who oppose it have resorted to the bending of some rules and moral decisions. We’re sure you’ve seen those bizarre gerrymandered districts that take some serious mental gymnastics to wrap your head around. Unfortunately, some people are of the mentality that democracy is good when it’s in your favor, but unfair when not. Because of this, the not-so-subtle campaign for disenfranchisement of certain groups still lingers to this day. So the question remains: can the Biden administration help keep our rights safe with both the House of Representatives and the Senate on the other side of the political spectrum? More depressingly, are they even willing to put in the work?
Biden’s Executive Order
An executive order was issued by President Joe Biden on March 7, 2021, that aimed to ease access to voting for everyone. It was a surprise to many, and a delight for those pushing for democratic reform. It directly encouraged many federal agencies related to the matter to “consider ways to expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process.”
We like to trust that our government will strive to do as they say, but so far, progress has been lacking.
at Demos, a think tank focused on progressive ideologies and policies. The organization recently published a study reviewing the administration progress on fulfilling the EO. It shows that while the Biden Administration has made a bit of progress, they have a long way to go until access to the democratic process is available to all. “We decided to put out this report now because we are halfway through the Biden administration and the right to vote continues to be under assault,” said Laura Williamson, the Associate Director of Democracy. “We need the federal government to do all they can to promote access to the ballot.”
Many who seek democratic reform have suggested there be more voter registration locations, but we argue that it’s far simpler (and cheaper) to allow registration through the federal services already available.
To set an example, one way to easily register that’s been tossed around is through the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The process would allow students to register to vote while applying for aid, as roughly the same information is given when applying to both. It would greatly help to bring the younger generation into the democratic fold, each election is essentially a new change to their future. This easier access to registration would also allow those in minority groups a way to register without having to seek it out, a fact supported by the knowledge that of the people of color who attend college, a majority apply for FASFA. The next generation of working class need to be allowed a say in their future, and while the Department of Education has made mention of the idea and toyed with it, there hasn’t actually been any move to implement the FAFSA route to registration, nor any other way through the federal applications thousands of people apply with every day for aid. In our opinion, the people in need should have some of the loudest voices.
Whatever the case may be for the delays in following through with Biden’s executive order, there is still a lot of work to do for equal voting rights. If we are to have a fair democracy, we need equal representation. The executive order is nice to hear about on the surface, but it means nothing if the administration isn’t willing to put in the work.