Today Congressman Rubén Hinojosa along with other House Democrats introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, comprehensive voting rights legislation to modernize our voter registration system, ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans and prohibit voter caging and other deceptive practices that keep people from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
"The right to vote is one of the most important aspects of our Democracy and our voters should be able to exercise that right through laws that help the process not diminish it and that is why I co-sponsored this important legislation," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa.
The bill will protect voters from restrictive voting measures that have been enacted in states across the country over the last year. These measures make it harder for millions of eligible voters to register or vote, and disproportionally affect our service members, the disabled, minorities, young people, seniors, and low-income Americans.
However, access to registration and to the ballot remains a problem:
Around three million Americans were turned away from the polls in the 2008 Presidential election due to voter registration problems.
One in four voters -- an estimated 51 million Americans eligible to vote -- are not registered.
Since 2008 nationwide, the number of Latinos registered to vote decreased by 5 percent.
The Department of Defense Inspector General has repeatedly noted a persistent failure of the Federal Voting Assistance Program to provide effective assistance to military voters, specifically identifying a lack of voter awareness of existing resources to assist in the process.
In 2009, a majority of polling places still had one or more impediments that could prevent an individual with a disability from casting their ballot.
But instead of making it easier to register and vote, state legislatures across the country have made deliberate and systematic attempts to roll back access to the ballot, including laws that:
Make voter registration more difficult for eligible voters:
At least 16 states have introduced bills to end Election Day and same-day voter registration and reduce other registration opportunities.
Florida, Illinois, and Texas passed laws restricting voter registration drives.
Ohio ended its weeklong period of same-day registration.
Reduce early and absentee voting:
At least nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia enacted those bills.
Four states introduced bills to reduce absentee voting opportunities.
But Democrats will not sit idly by. To that end, we have put forward the Voter Empowerment Act, which:
Opens access to the ballot box by:
Modernizing the voter registration system
Authorizing an online registration option
Authorizing same-day registration and permitting voters to update their registration data onsite
Providing additional tools to alleviate any additional burdens for people with disabilities
Requiring all universities that receive federal funds to offer and encourage voter registration to their students
Simplifying registration and ensuring that ballots from all military personnel serving overseas are counted
Ensures integrity of process by:
Authorizing funds for training poll workers and setting standards for polling place practices
Requiring provisional ballots be available and counted at all polling places
Prohibiting voter caging and designating it as a felony
Protecting against deceptive practices and intimidation
Protects accountability of result by:
Establishing a national voter hotline to ensure timely reporting and corrective action of voting related issues
Setting standards for voting machines to ensure accurate tabulation and confirmation of voter intent paper copy verification
Reauthorizing the Election Assistance Commission to ensure that the highest standards are being met nationwide to guarantee fair elections
Congressman Hinojosa added, "Texas is no stranger to deceptive voting practices and this is why in our region and all over the United States we should have good comprehensive protection as well as accessibility to exercise our right to vote."