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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Information Alert: Executive Order on Promoting Additional Access to Voting

This past Sunday, President Biden signed a new voting access executive order entitled “Executive Order on Promoting Additional Access to Voting”. The Executive Order was released to coincide with the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when civil rights activists, beginning their march from Selma to Montgomery, were brutally beaten by State troopers while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The executive order (EO) aims to expand access to voting in a number of ways, including:

  • Giving the heads of every Federal agency 200 days to evaluate and create a plan to promote voter registration and voter participation (Section 3);
  • Requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate efforts to improve and modernize Federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information, including ensuring accessibility to people with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency (Section 3); and
  • Requiring the General Services Administration (GSA) to coordinate with the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and other agencies, as well as seek input from affected stakeholders (including civil rights advocates, disability rights advocates, and Tribal Nations) to modernize and improve the (Section 5) website.

In addition, it addresses increasing voting opportunities for employees (Section 6), improving and ensuring access to voting for active duty military and other overseas voters (Section 8), providing voting education and access to all eligible voters in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Section 9), and establishing a Native American Voting Rights Steering Group (Section 10). 

Importantly, Section 7 of the EO is dedicated to improving access for disabled voters. It requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), within the Department of Commerce, to evaluate what is needed to ensure the online Federal Voter Registration Form is accessible within 270 days. During this time period, NIST is to consult with the Department of Justice, EAC, and other agencies to “analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.” At the end of this 270-day period, NIST is required to publish recommendations on both the barriers it identifies and on the Federal Voter Registration Form.

NCIL applauds this Executive Order’s intent to improve voting access, especially for marginalized groups who have traditionally experienced significant barriers to exercising this fundamental right. Voters with disabilities still experience significant barriers in voter registration and education, as well as casting their ballots. We call on NIST to include stakeholders from the disability community in every part of the process as they analyze voting access barriers and develop recommendations on how to address those barriers.

You can read the full EO and the Administration’s Fact Sheet to learn more.