Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Voter Empowerment Act, with 123 of my colleagues. The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society. It controls everything we do from the time we're born until the moment we die. And that's why the leaders standing with me today believe voting should be simple, easy and accessible to every citizen.
But there are 51 million Americans who are not registered, and it's harder for them to register today than it was just one year ago. In this age of technology, our country is moving backward, not forward. Since the beginning of last year, 176 bills have been introduced in 41 states making it harder and more difficult for people to participate in the democratic process.
In the last election 3 million eligible voters showed up to the polls to vote and were turned away because of failures in our registration system. We need to do something about this. The Voter Empowerment Act represents the leadership of many members of the Democratic Caucus who believe we must include the voice of every American citizen.
The American people should be asking why there is not a bipartisan push to enable Americans to cast a ballot that will be counted. We must not be silent while leaders we elect take our voting rights away. The vote is the soul and the heart of the democratic process. People died for the right to vote, and some of them were people I knew. I hope we will not return to the days of overt discrimination before we decide to do something about it.
The Voter Empowerment Act 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 bill 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. It protects voters from deceptive practices and intimidation and prohibits voter caging. It will ensure that every vote is counted. The bill 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.
Today with the introduction of the Voter Empowerment Act, we are making a major step. We are asking all of the American people and the press to pay attention to these problems because they are a threat to democracy as we know it.
I ask all members, from both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort to open up the democratic process to every American.