House Democrats on Thursday unveiled new voting rights legislation designed to modernize voter registration while cracking down on practices that could discourage certain populations from voting.
The Voter Empowerment Act appears to be a direct counter to a growing movement within the GOP at the state and national level to require voters to present a photo ID when voting.
“The ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple. Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote today than it was even one year ago. ... We should be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the bill’s sponsors and a 1960s civil rights icon.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) agreed, saying, “Just six months from a presidential election and amid an unprecedented drive to impose new restrictions on who can vote in states across the country, Democrats will fight for the right to vote and for the integrity of our electoral system. This bill is a major step towards greater accountability and broader access.”
The bill includes a number of provisions designed to modernize the voting process, such as authorizing online registration and allowing same-day registration.
The bill also includes language barring the practice of “voter caging” — a tactic that involves challenging voter registrations if mail sent to their official addresses is returned — and strengthens prohibitions against voter intimidation.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks with reporters following a vote in the Senate. Gillibrand’s proposal to remove military commanders from the process of reviewing sexual-assault cases was left out of the bicameral deal on the defense authorization bill, but the senator is pushing for a vote on her plan soon.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.