Mr. ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, the right to vote is under attack. It may not be easy to see; but in State legislatures all across this country, we are seeing a quiet passing of laws that will strip American citizens of their right to vote.
It may come as a surprise that this is happening in the United States. Our great country is best known for its rich democratic tradition, which is predicated on the right to vote; and this right to vote has been expanding over time, not retracting. Throughout our history, brave men and women have fought and died for the right, and it has been denied to too many Americans for too long. Since its founding, the United States has been on a course toward enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement. Incredibly, that seems to be changing.
State legislatures are turning back the clock on decades of hard-fought voter protections. This year, 34 State legislatures introduced prohibitive voter ID bills. If passed, they could affect the voting ability of nearly 21 million Americans. Two States have enacted prohibitive proof-of-citizenship laws, which stand to exclude even more voters at the polls; 13 States are working to make it harder to register to vote; and nine are working to reduce early and absentee voting.
These laws add up to the greatest attack on voting rights since the Jim Crow era. In all, they could strip more than 5 million Americans of the right to vote. That figure alone is half the margin of victory from the 2008 Presidential election. Congress must act. Today, I am introducing two bills to push back against these laws and protect Americans' right to vote.
The first bill, the Voter Access Protection Act, will ensure that no American citizen is denied the right to vote because they don't have photo IDs on election day. The second bill, the Same Day Registration Act, will allow Americans to register to vote on the same day they cast their ballots. No American citizen should be turned back at the polls because they didn't register weeks or months in advance. These bills will help ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their fundamental rights in Federal elections.
If you truly believe in democracy, you should be doing everything you can to increase the enfranchisement of American citizens, not to take it away. I urge all of my colleagues to support this critical and patriotic legislation.