Statement in Support of the Voter Empowerment Act (HR 5799)
Washington, DC -- As an organization devoted to fair elections that respect every vote and every voice, FairVote applauds the 123 U.S. House Members who are sponsors of the newly introduced Voter Empowerment Act (HR 5799). We call for hearings and action on HR 5799 and greater ongoing commitment from Congress to treat the right to vote as an American value rather than an opportunity merely to change election outcomes.
FairVote's executive director Rob Richie made the following statement about the bill.
"The Voter Empowerment Act has common-sense provisions that represent international norms and should not be the subject of political calculation. It seeks to modernize voter registration and allow eligible voters who are not registered before Election Day a fair chance to participate. It reestablishes the value of the Election Assistance Commission, which remains without commissioners, and twisting in the political winds, despite ongoing evidence of the need for national standards and performance measures. It provides standards for orderly restoration of voting rights for citizens with felony convictions. It prevents a range of bad practices that disenfranchise eligible voters.
"Moreover, we hope that HR 5799 represents a turning point where Congress once again recognizes its obligation to uphold voting rights for all American citizens and for both major parties to come together to accept the right to vote as fundamental. Like the rights articulated in the Bill of Rights, the right to vote should be recognized as a fundamental American value, not a subject of partisanship calculation.
"Voter registration should be a democracy passport for all, not a barrier to participation. In that spirit it is time for all Americans to come together and enact measures to bring our voter registration system into the 21st century and generate accurate and complete voting rolls. Every citizen turning 18 and every person becoming a citizen should be automatically registered, while ineligible voters should not remain on the rolls. Unregistered eligible voters should have the right to register and vote in a secure manner on Election Day -- a nonpartisan practice that works in Republican-leaning Idaho, Democratic-leaning Maine, and a mix of other states.
"We should ensure our elections are not undercut due to local and state governments not having funding to administer high-quality elections. We should establish a FairVote Index to measure how elections are run and take action to raise election administration performance. Every jurisdiction should have the option to administer its elections on voting equipment that is publicly owned, that has open source software and that can be easily upgraded to reflect public needs.
"No American citizen of voting age should be deprived of voting rights any more than they should lose their right to due process or their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
"We should make it clear we have an opinion about participation: it makes our nation stronger. In that spirit young Americans should be introduced to the responsibilities of voting in our schools. Jurisdictions should produce voter guides and take other steps to inform eligible voters about their ballot choices and the mechanics of participating in their community. Congress, states and cities should have standing commissions evaluating voter participation, voting rights and electoral reforms that would foster higher, more informed participation.
"Our nation has a long way to go to live up these goals, but the Voter Empowerment Act represents major progress. We hope that it marks a turning point where Congress once again recognizes its obligation to uphold voting rights for all American citizens --and for all our representatives to come together to establish the right to vote as fundamental to what it means to be an American and affirm that value in the U.S. Constitution."
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