The Introduction of H.R. 12, the Voter Empowerment Actby Representative John Lewis
Posted on 2013-01-23
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Mr. LEWIS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce the Voter
I am proud to be joined by my friends and colleagues--the Gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn), the Gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), the Gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Brady), the Gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), and over 160 of our Democratic colleagues in sponsoring this landmark legislation. Our good friend, Senator Gillibrand, is also introducing the companion to the Voter Empowerment Act in the Senate.
Today, January 23rd marks the 49th anniversary of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This is the amendment which ended poll taxes, a tool used to undermine the right to vote for millions of African Americans. On this day, we must recommit ourselves in mind, body, and spirit to fight both overt and covert impediments to the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society.
The right to vote is precious, almost sacred, yet millions of Americans are still not registered to vote. How can we continue to be global leaders in promoting democratic values and principles, when so many citizens still face barriers to participating in an electoral democracy? When my colleagues and I introduced this legislation last year, we urged prompt action to ensure access, accountability, and integrity in our nation's electoral system. Last November, we all watched aghast as Americans stood in line for hours on end determined to cast their vote. Some were able to weather the difficulties, while others were forced to give up. Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable. Earlier this week, the President stated in his inaugural address that, ``Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.'' The Voter Empowerment Act responds to that call to action with a plan. H.R. 12 modernizes the voter registration system in this nation. It helps voters with disabilities, members of the military and young people to fully access their right to vote and to have their vote counted.
The VEA also restores the integrity of the voting system, by providing well-informed, well-trained poll workers who know the law, and ensuring that election officials don't have a vested interest in the outcome of political campaigns. This bill protects voters from deceptive practices and intimidation and prohibits voter caging, and will ensure that every vote is counted. H.R. 12 creates a national hotline so that problems are reported, corrected and prevented in real time, and it reauthorizes the Election Assistance Commission, the only agency with election administration expertise, to ensure the highest standards are being met nationwide.
People sacrificed their lives for this precious right. We have a duty to honor this legacy and the lives that were lost by ensuring this sacred right. We must all come together to guarantee open, fair, free access to democracy in our great country. I hope that each and every one of my colleagues will join me in support of this landmark legislation.