By Elizabeth Vlock
House Democrats Thursday unveiled their plans for The Voter Empowerment Act, an act designed in response to recent state legislations that impede voting rights for millions of Americans.
The motivation for the act is sixteen states that have recently introduced measures that that end same-day voter registration and create obstacles to other voter registration opportunities. Nine states have also introduced bills preventing early voting and four states have enacted it. The Voter Empowerment Act is designed to modernize registration systems and provide protections that include a national hotline to report corrective actions of voting issues and a mandate for paper copy verifications from voting machines.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) spoke at a press conference today explaining new laws in states across the country function as obstacles since “instead of making it easier for Americans to have their voices heard in government, these new rules are making it more difficult.” Hoyer compared the current hindrances to past struggles that civil rights movements encountered. Stating that, “America’s story is filled with chapter after chapter of struggle to extend the right to vote — to African American, to women, to people old enough to serve in uniform” and that the Voter Empowerment Act is designed to continue to fight against unfair voting practices.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights pioneer, added that, “the ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple. Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote than it was one year ago.” Rep. Lewis also advocated for Congress to, “be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out.”
In 2008, before these new state measure were introduced, approximately three million Americans were turned away from the poll due to registration related issues.