Today, on the 47th anniversary of the enactment of the landmark Voting Rights Act, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree called for a renewed commitment to encouraging all voting-age Americans to exercise their right to vote.
"We've seen political leaders all over the country--from Wisconsin and Florida to right here in Maine--try to make it more difficult to vote or register or tovote. The right to vote is at the essence of what it is to be an American, and whenever it comes under assault we need to stand up and speak out," Pingree said.
Recently Pingree joined colleagues in the House in writing to the presidents of over 5,800 colleges and universities around the country, encouraging them to make sure that students of voting age are registered to vote and know where to go. Pingree and her colleagues said it is important to get young people off on the right foot when it comes to voting.
"Student voters are often first-time voters. Studies have shown that if voters cannot register and vote the first time they attempt to exercise this fundamental right, they will be less likely to vote in subsequent elections," Pingree and her colleagues wrote.
Pingree has also co-sponsored a resolution calling for September to be declared the National Month of voter Registration, which will challenge civil rightsgroups, third party voter registration groups and voting age citizen to register to vote, verify their voting status and confirming their polling places.
Efforts to discourage registration and voting have become more common across the country. Recently, Maine voters overturned a law passed by the legislature that would have ended the state's decades-long practice of same-day voter registration. Political leaders said the crack down on registration was necessary because certain groups, like college students, try to "steal" Maine elections by registering to vote. One Maine official even sent a threatening letter to college students, implying that they were breaking the law by registering to vote.
In Florida, groups like the League of Women Voters were forced to stop registering voters because of complicated new regulations and the threat of hefty fines. In Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Tennessee new voter registration laws required citizens to produce documents like passports in order to register to vote.