House Democrats on Thursday introduced voting legislation designed to counter restrictions on voting rights that have been enacted across the country since 2010.
“The ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple,” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the sponsor of the Voter Empowerment Act, said. “Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote today than it was even one year ago. The sponsors of this act believe we need to take action or risk losing the liberties we have enjoyed. We should be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out.”
The bill seeks to promote access to voting by allowing U.S. citizens to register and update their information online. Those who registered or updated their information online would also be able to receive voting information through email rather than just regular mail.
The Voter Empowerment Act would also promote voting by allowing for same day registration in federal elections and requiring states to assist voters with disabilities.
Nearly 3 million Americans were turned away during election day in the 2008 Presidential election because of voter registration problems. Nearly one in four eligible voters, about 51 million people, are not even registered to vote.
“This bill ensures that everyone — seniors, the disabled, working families, students and our military can register to vote,” one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA), said. “It makes registering to vote simpler, faster, and more secure for each and every American. The Voter Empowerment Act reaffirms the basic principle our democracy: one person, one vote.”
The Voter Empowerment Act would also prohibit public officials in charge of elections from participating in political campaigns, establish a national hotline to report problems during election day, and enact other changes intended to make voting easier and uphold accountability.
Republicans across the country have pushed for stricter voting regulations to protect against alleged voter fraud. More than 30 states have changed voter laws since 2008, including requiring voter identification cards, eliminating same-day registration on voting day, prohibiting ex-felons from ballot access, restricting early voting and requiring proof of citizenship.
But a report by New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice found that changes to voting laws could suppress up to five million votes during the 2012 elections, particularly among young, minority and low-income voters, as well as those with disabilities.
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