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Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, and Nadler Continue Their Push for Voter Empowerment

February 15, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Lead sponsors Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6), and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act (H.R. 1275) in the House of Representatives yesterday.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will introduce a companion version in the Senate.  

The Voter Empowerment Act is a central part of the House Democratic majority’s efforts to strengthen the foundation of our democracy.  The bill helps ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, modernizes our voter registration system in ways that help more Americans participate, and takes steps to eliminate deceptive practices that deter voters from casting their ballots. 

Though introduced and advanced by Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Nadler and Lofgren in successive Congresses, much of this bill will become a centerpiece of H.R.1, the For the People Act, one of the first big initiatives of the Democratic majority.  Its purpose is to address many of the voting challenges evident in the elections of 2016 and 2018.  H.R.1 will expand voting access, reduce the influence of big money in the political process as well as the conflicts of interest and lack of transparency that have plagued the public sector in the last two years.

The elections of 2016 and 2018 were historic for many reasons, but the issues of voting integrity, the questions about the possibility of a foreign government interfering with voter turnout or results, and the use of voter purging, last minute changes to the locations of polling places, limitations placed on early and weekend voting, voter machine incapacity and other tactics gave rise to recounts, lawsuits, and protracted concession periods.  The VEA takes a comprehensive approach to many of these issues to try to plug the widest gaps in the voting access and electoral process.

Sponsors offer the VEA today as a continuation of the on-going effort to ensure that every American has an equal and fair opportunity to make their voices heard through the electoral process.  At a time when some states have implemented or are planning to implement new barriers for voters who may be seniors, students, low-income Americans, members of our Armed Services, disabled, or speak English as a second language, Democrats see the need to double their efforts to protect voting access for all Americans.   (more)

Click for a section by section description and  full bill text of the Voter Empowerment Act.

 

Rep. John Lewis

“For many years, the VEA served as the most comprehensive proposal to make voting secure and accessible to all Americans.  In response to the 2018 election, we all worked with our colleagues to update the bill in response to barriers and challenges that voters of all ages and backgrounds experienced.  As a result, this version of the VEA improves automatic and Internet registration, restores protections from voter roll purging, requires election officials to recuse themselves if they are a candidate on the ballot, and makes early voting by mail accessible and affordable.   It is good, sound policy that helps restore voters’ hope and faith in the most important non-violent tool in any democracy.”

 

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

“I’m proud to join with Rep. John Lewis and others to introduce the Voter Empowerment Act in the 116th Congress.  Our legislation builds on the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which I sponsored, to make it easier for eligible Americans to cast ballots and participate in our democracy.  At a time when some are trying to undo voting rights protections and raise new barriers to the ballot box, it is critical that Congress empower voters to have their voices heard.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to protect access to the ballot box.”

 

Majority Whip James Clyburn

“The right to vote in America is sacred. The Voter Empowerment Act offers necessary protections against the use of creative devices to infringe on this right, especially among traditionally disenfranchised populations. The federal government cannot stand idly by while hard won voting rights are blocked by institutional barriers once again.”   

 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler

“Our nation’s election system faces a broad array of challenges which must be remedied without delay, or we risk fundamentally undermining the integrity of our democracy.  The Voter Empowerment Act has been designed to modernize the American electoral system by providing improved access to the ballot, enhanced integrity in our voting systems and greater accountability for the administration of our elections.  Modernizing and securing our election systems should not be partisan issues.  I hope that with this legislation we can work toward a bipartisan consensus to protect our democratic institutions.”  

 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – Senate Co-Sponsor

“So many Americans are still experiencing blatant discrimination when they try to exercise their right to vote,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “As states continue to create new barriers to the ballot box, Congress needs to do much more to protect our sacred right to vote. I am proud to join Congressman Lewis to reintroduce the Voter Empowerment Act to help ensure all Americans can make their voices heard on Election Day without obstruction. This legislation would take much-needed steps to strengthen the integrity of our elections and ensure that voting is equal, fair, and accessible for all Americans.”

 

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