Legal experts suggest that the voter registration push by the Biden administration may potentially violate several federal laws, including one that prohibits agency employees from participating in political activities. However, due to the lack of transparency surrounding the executive order, it is difficult to make a definitive statement. In March 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to collaborate with nonprofits in order to promote voter registration and participation. While the initiative appears to have good intentions, it carries the risk of contravening various federal laws, such as the Hatch Act, which restricts certain employees at federal agencies from engaging in political activities. According to election law attorney Audrey Perry Martin, the manner in which the order is implemented will determine whether or not it violates the Hatch Act:

“If executive agencies accept volunteer services from third-party organizations with a partisan purpose to register voters, that would appear to violate the Hatch Act,” she said. “Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has not been forthcoming about the details of the plan and how it is being implemented, which makes it impossible to know if the Hatch Act, or other federal laws for that matter, are being violated.”

The order tells agencies to solicit “approved, nonpartisan third-party organizations and State officials to provide voter registration services on agency premises.”

According to information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project contended that the initiative was a “partisan voter mobilization effort” for Democratic groups, citing its “activist origins” and the organizations involved in a “listening session” to support the order.

Demos, a progressive think tank with founding members such as former President Barack Obama, advocated for a similar strategy in December 2020 to promote “civic participation for all Americans, especially for Black and brown Americans.” Upon the publication of the order, it stated that it was “a significant advancement in an initiative Demos had prioritized for the Biden-Harris administration during the presidential transition and has been a central focus of our efforts for years.”

During a listening session on July 12, 2021 to discuss the implementation of the order, many of the participating groups were affiliated with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as highlighted by the Oversight Project.

“The evidence from the listening session makes it seem more likely that Hatch Act violations are occurring,” Perry Martin said. “If the Biden administration is only reaching out to left-leaning groups regarding the implementation of the Executive Order and federal agency attempts to register voters are targeted solely or primarily to Democratic voters through these left-leaning third-party organizations, that would be problematic under the Hatch Act.”

Suggestions presented during the listening session encompassed the idea from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to utilize the Head Start federal preschool program for low-income families in voter registration, as well as Demos’ proposal to employ the Housing and Urban Development agency for registering low-income voters who are in search of public housing, as reported by the Oversight Project.