The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights organized a letter with 106 organizations requesting federal agencies to strongly implement President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order promoting access to voting. The letter emphasizes the urgency of agencies taking additional steps to more fully meet the goals of President Biden’s Executive Order Promoting Access to Voting.
Dear Secretary Becerra, Secretary Cardona, Secretary Fudge, Attorney General Garland, Administrator Guzman, Secretary Haaland, Secretary Mayorkas, Secretary McDonough, Secretary Walsh, and Secretary Yellen,
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 230 national organizations committed to promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 106 undersigned organizations, we write to emphasize the urgency for your departments and agencies to take additional steps to implement President Biden’s Executive Order Promoting Access to Voting (“EO”), and to share specific ways we believe your department or agency can more fully meet the goals of the EO.
We first want to acknowledge the steps your agencies have already taken in response to President Biden’s Executive Order Promoting Access to Voting. The EO has provided an unprecedented opportunity for federal agencies to think about how they can further a goal that undergirds our entire system of government: protecting and promoting the fundamental right to vote. We thank you for the important commitments your agencies have already made, commitments we expect you and your teams are working hard to fulfill.
These commitments and the work since the EO was issued more than one year ago are significant because our democracy is facing extraordinary threats. The recent attacks on our democracy are unlike any we have seen in more than half a century. Since the 2020 election alone, state legislatures across the country have introduced hundreds of bills and passed dozens of laws that make it harder for people to register and to vote. These laws, alongside the voter suppression measures enacted over the last decade, make it especially difficult for voters of color, young voters, low-income voters, voters with disabilities, Limited English Proficiency voters, and other marginalized communities to make their voices heard in our democracy.
Simply, there is an urgent need for meaningful federal action to protect and promote the fundamental right to vote. Efforts to enact a federal legislative solution to the assaults on our democracy have stalled for now. As such, the imperative for federal agencies to do everything they can to harness the significant potential of the EO is even greater than when it was issued. While the commitments your agencies have made so far are a good start, they do not represent everything that is within your authority to do, and in many respects, they fall far short of the kinds of meaningful actions within your agencies’ reach that would ensure all eligible Americans are able to engage in the democratic process. We are reaching out to each of you because we have identified specific ways your department or agency can more fully meet the goals of the EO.
First, we ask that your agencies commit to providing and supporting robust active voter registration services to the eligible Americans you and your partners serve. Each day, your agencies and partners interact with millions of Americans–a significant number of whom face barriers to voting–through interactions that could include the opportunity to register to vote. To date, however, agency commitments have mostly entailed putting information on websites or in offices, and/or sending letters encouraging third parties to voluntarily provide voting and registration information. Our organizations know from many years of agency voter registration work that these types of passive activities do not translate into significant numbers of voters being added to the registration rolls. Instead, eligible people are successfully registered to vote when they are offered active voter registration services. This includes being asked if they want to vote or to update their registration, receiving assistance as they complete the voter registration process, and ideally having their completed registration application collected and transmitted to the appropriate election officials or, if that is impractical, receiving a stamped envelope in which they can submit their voter registration application.
Additionally, we ask you to work actively to invite and accept designations by states as voter registration agencies under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). To date, only two federal agencies have offered themselves up for designation, and those in only a small handful of states. As far as we know, none yet have succeeded in being designated. Following the examples of motor vehicle offices and other state agencies, designation as an NVRA agency would provide a road map to ensure the voter registration services your agency provides are high quality and effective, and in turn to ensure all eligible people your agency serves have the meaningful opportunity to register to vote. While official designation must come from the state, agencies can encourage such designation through active conversation with states and commitments to accept designation – commitments two agencies have already made.
We know that, for nearly all federal agencies, integrating this type of voter registration services into existing programs is new. Our organizations stand ready to provide assistance to you, your staff, and partners as you work to enhance your voter registration and voting access plans. We also encourage you to reach out to state and local election officials who have years of experience helping state government agencies providing voter registration services per the requirements of the NVRA. Some of the undersigned organizations have been in communication already with your agencies, and we would be thrilled to meet with you and your teams further to share our expertise and provide support as you determine what more your agency can do to meet the call of the EO and the urgency of this moment. Should you make more meaningful commitments in the coming months, our organizations stand ready to help drive successful registration through your agencies by educating the public about the ways you and your staff have risen to the challenge of the EO.
In the year since the EO has been issued, our country’s collective project of building a multiracial, inclusive democracy has faced grave threats. The urgency for the administration and federal agencies to do everything within your power to confront those threats, before it is too late, is greater than ever. We urge you to review the steps your agencies have taken so far and to work with your staff to make the additional meaningful commitments described here, to the full extent of your authority. In addition, some of our groups have already met with your agencies regarding implementation of the executive order and, to assist with those additional actions urged in this letter, we request additional meetings to specifically strategize about how your agency can commit to providing meaningful voter registration services and can pursue designation under the NVRA.
We are grateful for your leadership and look forward to hearing your additional plans to ensure your agency is doing everything possible to maximize the important role it can play in communities across America in service of protecting the fundamental and sacred right to vote. If you have any questions or to schedule follow up conversations, please contact Leslie Proll, Senior Director of Voting Rights at The Leadership Conference, at [email protected].
See All Signatories in Attached Letter
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