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Public Statements

Congress Must Call for a National Month of Voter Registration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, recent events have highlighted ongoing efforts to suppress the voting rights of American citizens. State representatives and political leaders in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Florida have made public admissions that their particular state laws were designed to put a dent in the democratic process.

In order to confront this assault on the right to vote, we are introducing a resolution, expressing the sense of Congress that the month of September be dedicated to ensuring that every eligible citizen is registered to vote in the United States, calling for a National Month of Voter Registration.

This resolution will call for a nation-wide focus to challenge voting age citizens around the country to register to vote and confirm the status of their voter registration.

The National Month of Voter Registration will encourage citizens to take action and mobilize voter education efforts and voter registration efforts across the country. Since the 2010 elections, misguided efforts in many states have led to the enactment of laws that could turn the clock back to pre-2008 levels of voter registration and voter turn-out. With no response, thousands of Americans may be subjected to state actions that are not in compliance with our federal voting standards and that harm the franchise.

This national focus will challenge civil rights groups, third party voter registration groups, and voting eligible citizens to take action to conduct the following:
Register to vote. With voter registration deadlines approaching, many citizens may face significant barriers if they wait until the final hours to register to vote.

Verify voting status. Every voting eligible citizen will be encouraged to verify their voting status by confirming their presence on the voter rolls, and confirming that their address and personal identifying information in hand matches what the state or local board of elections has on file. Many voters believe that their voting status and information is current, however, citizens in Tennessee and Florida have already found that voter purging is real and can impact the right to vote without a voter being aware.

Confirm polling place. Every voting eligible citizen will be encouraged to verify voting location before Election Day. Voters may find that their poling location has changed from prior elections.

Mr. Speaker, I have not seen such an assault on the right to vote since the civil rights movement. As I look back on where we have come from in this country, it seems to me that some of these state voting changes mirror the negative trends of Jim Crow in their effect to scale back voting rights.

For instance, last week, the Brennan Center released another report showing how new voter ID laws could impose serious financial burdens on eligible voters. If the right to vote is available to every American citizen, then why are states making it harder to exercise that right?

I. addition, a second Judge in Wisconsin has deemed Wisconsin's strict voter ID law unconstitutional under the state's constitution. Litigants in the law suit found that the law created unnecessary hardships for minority voters who are less likely to possess a valid ID. On the other side of the argument, the state of Wisconsin argued that the law was going to help prevent voter fraud.

Some state lawmakers have raised the issue of voter fraud to justify strict voter ID requirements and other strict voting changes. However, they won't tell you that during the George W. Bush Administration's five year probe of voter fraud from 2002-2007, that Administration came up with scant evidence of widespread voter fraud.

In addition, they won't tell you the amount of voter fraud cases that have come out of states that have strict voter ID, because there are none. There were no cases of fraud in state of Indiana when the Supreme Court ruled on Indiana's voter ID law in Crawford v. Marion, and states like Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas have publicly stated that there are no current cases of voter fraud being pursued in their states. Mr. Speaker, our voting rights are being threatened by the non-existent issue of voter fraud.

Therefore, if states are going to present their worst laws to impact the franchise, then the American people have to rise up and combat these laws with better practices.

During the National Month of Voter Registration, we encourage every American citizen to take back their right to vote. We will work with citizens to ensure that they register to vote, confirm their voting information is correct on the voting rolls, and verify that they know where to go to vote on Election Day.

It is a troubling thought that in 2012, the Congress has to rise up and introduce this bill to protect voting rights. Even though Reconstruction Era and the Civil Rights Movement are technically in America's past, the current threat against voting rights is just as real as in those days. We are proud to stand with the American people to protect the exercise of their voice in our democracy.

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