- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2023

SELMA, Ala. — President Biden on Sunday recommitted his pledge to implement long-stalled Democratic plans to overhaul election laws when he commemorated the 58th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday civil rights march.

Speaking with a backdrop of the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights activists were beaten by police in a 1965 march for voting rights, Mr. Biden delivered a clear signal he will seek a second term in the White House and is depending on Black voters to deliver the win.

Although he has yet to make an official reelection announcement, Mr. Biden sought to shore up the crucial Black vote by demonstrating he’s not giving up on legislation Democrats say would expand voting access. He also accused Republicans of seeking to roll back voting rights.

“The right to vote and to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty. With it, anything’s possible. Without that right, nothing is possible and this fundamental right remains under assault,” Mr. Biden said. “The conservative Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act over the years. Since the 2020 election, a wave of states and dozens — dozens — of anti-voting laws fueled by the ‘big lie’ and the election deniers now elected to office.”

Mr. Biden pushed several Democratic-led bills that died in the last Congress. Critics say the legislation would nationalize U.S. elections and impose rules designed to boost Democratic candidates.

The Freedom to Vote Act would require states to offer same-day voter registration, make Election Day a national holiday, and mandate 15 days of early voting. It would also require universal mail-in voting, create a taxpayer-backed public financing system for House elections and slap new restrictions on states’ ability to draw electoral districts.

SEE ALSO: Biden loses footing with Republicans now in power

The John Lewis Voting Act would grant the Department of Justice sweeping new powers to oversee state elections. In some cases, states would have to secure DOJ approval before adopting new voting laws.

Mr. Biden has been a staunch proponent of the legislation named after the late Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who at age 24 was a leader of the Selma march in 1965. When that bill died in a Senate filibuster in January 2022, Mr. Biden called for eliminating the filibuster to enable Democrats to force the legislation through. 

The president reiterated his dislike of the filibuster on Sunday before touting an executive order last year that sought to promote voter registration services and nonpartisan information about elections.

“I’ve made it clear: I will not let a filibuster obstruct the sacred right to vote,” he said. 

Black voters are Mr. Biden’s best hope for a second term.

While several polls have shown that most Democrats don’t want Mr. Biden to run again in 2024, surveys of Black voters are more encouraging for the president. A January BlackTrack survey from HIT Strategies found that 59% of Black voters said Mr. Biden should run for a second term in 2024 and 74% approved of his job performance.

SEE ALSO: Sen. Sherrod Brown dodges whether Biden is dragging him down in Ohio Senate race

A KFF/the Grio survey of Black voters last October showed that 69% approved of the way Mr. Biden was handling his job as president. The survey found Black voters evenly divided on whether Mr. Biden should seek reelection.

Among all Americans, however, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found last month that 62% would be “dissatisfied” or “angry” if Mr. Biden were reelected. And an Associated Press-NORC poll in early February showed that just 37% of Democrats want a second Biden term, down from 52% last fall.

The president is polling weakly, especially among younger Democratic voters, with only about one-fourth of them supporting his likely reelection bid.

Still, House Democrats who gathered for their winter retreat last week in Baltimore said they are unified behind Mr. Biden running in 2024.

Nearly six decades after White police officers beat a group of marchers crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge, Bloody Sunday has served as a rallying cry for the civil rights movement. The annual commemoration has also become a perennial waypoint for politicians to honor those who fought for equal rights for Black Americans.

President Biden’s visit to Selma is his first appearance at the commemorative march since taking office. Vice President Kamala Harris attended the annual event last year.

• Ramsey Touchberry and Dave Boyer, who contributed to this article, reported from Washington.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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