Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, lead sponsors Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-6), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Robert Brady (PA-1) and more than 170 Democrats reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act in the House of Representatives. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will introduce a companion version in the Senate. The Voter Empowerment Act will help ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, will modernize our voter registration system to help more Americans participate, and takes steps to eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud that deter voters from casting their ballots.
On March 21, 1965, thousands of protestors left Selma, Alabama and marched all the way to Montgomery to underscore the need for voting rights legislation which assured access to the ballot box for millions of Americans. 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 certify their efforts to protect voting access for all Americans.
“As we look to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the final Selma-to-Montgomery march, begun on March 21, 1965," said Rep. John Lewis, " I am proud to join my colleagues to reintroduce the Voter Empowerment Act. The goal of this bill is to make voting access equal, fair, and simple for every American. Democracy is not a state; it is an act. The vigilant action of every member of Congress and every citizen is necessary to ensure that liberty, equality and justice remain the guiding principles of our democracy. The VEA is just one of the steps we believe must be taken to make sure the vote retains its power as the most transformative, non-violent tool citizens have in our society to make their voices heard."
“I’m pleased to be joining Civil Rights Movement hero Rep. John Lewis, Assistant Leader Clyburn, Ranking Member Conyers, and Ranking Member Brady today to reintroduce the Voter Empowerment Act,” said Democratic Whip Hoyer. “This legislation aims to make it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballots and have those ballots counted accurately at a time when, unfortunately, some states are making it more difficult for voters to exercise their right to participate in our democracy. Our legislation would modernize the voter registration system to include same-day registration, expand early voting, prohibit deceptive practices, create a national voter protection hotline, and mandate a verifiable paper trail, among other reforms. I hope that Democrats and Republicans in the House can come together in this fiftieth anniversary year of the Selma-to-Montgomery march and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act to pass our bill and empower all Americans to have a voice in their government.”
Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn said, “The Voter Empowerment Act is the product of a collaborative effort involving dozens of Members and representatives from scores of advocacy organizations. In the face of recently enacted creative devices that constitute a modern version of the Jim Crow-era practice of voter disenfranchisement, this legislation will improve access to the ballot box, protect the integrity of our elections, and ensure that those who seek to cause mischief are held accountable. I am hopeful the voices of people of good will rise above the din of despair we so often hear about the future of our great country and Congress will act on this needed vehicle toward ‘a more perfect Union.’”
“There is no more important right in our society than the right to vote– the foundation of all of our other rights enshrined in the Constitution, " said Rep. John Conyers. "Unfortunately, efforts to scale back the right to vote continue to thrive in our country. Today we call on Congress to once again protect that precious right. Congress did not stand idly by in 1965 when we passed the Voting Rights Act and the many federal protections we passed thereafter. When equal access to the ballot box is impaired by any means, the Constitution obligates our most careful and deliberate attention. And, we, the 114th Congress, must not stand idly now by when American citizens are denied their constitutional right to vote.”
“We are fewer than two years away from the next federal election," says Rep. Robert Brady, "and are destined to repeat the same unacceptable mistakes of 2012. Without action, thousands of eligible voters will be turned away from the polls because of preventable problems. We need to modernize voter registration and ensure that state and local election officials are fully equipped with the information and resources necessary to effectively and efficiently administer their elections. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue but a democracy issue.”