WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Congresswoman Nikema Williams, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Reverend Raphael Warnock announced the introduction of the bicameral Voter Empowerment Act, legislation originally authored in the House by civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, who passed away last year.
This legislation would help protect the voting rights of people across the country by ensuring equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, modernizing voter registration, and helping to eliminate deceptive practices that deter people from voting.
The Voter Empowerment Act, which has 25 House cosponsors, is a cornerstone of the For the People Act, a transformational voting rights, anti-corruption and clean elections reform package.
The introduction comes as Republican legislatures across the country are passing archaic voter suppression laws, designed to disproportionately disenfranchise communities of color. In Georgia, the state legislature passed sweeping legislation that would shorten the runoff cycle, place restrictions on early voting locations, make giving food or drinks to a voter a misdemeanor, allow for unlimited challenges to voter registration and eligibility, and implement other provisions designed to make voting harder. Similar laws are under consideration in numerous states with Republican-controlled legislatures, including Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah and more.
“The late Congressman John Lewis nearly gave his life to secure the right to vote and I am committed to honoring his legacy and preserving our democracy,” said Whip Clyburn. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Voter Empowerment Act with Congresswoman Williams and Senators Gillibrand and Warnock. This bill will strengthen critically-needed ballot box protections in this country. As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to ensure that all eligible Americans have the right to cast a ballot that will be counted and make their voices heard.”
“The Voter Empowerment Act uplifts the legacy of my friend, mentor and predecessor, Congressman John Lewis,” said Rep. Williams. “The blatantly racist voter suppression that was signed into law in Georgia shows the urgent need for us to take action on the federal level to break down barriers to voting and ensure the integrity of our elections. Your zip code should not determine if you have free and fair access to the ballot. It’s time we get into ‘Good Trouble’ as we stop the Jim Crow 2.0 Voter Suppression efforts we are seeing across the country.”
“Working alongside my friend, the late Congressman John Lewis, on the Voter Empowerment Act was one of the great honors of my career, and I’m proud to continue this work with Senator Warnock and Congressman Clyburn,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “As Republican legislatures across the country seek to pass voter suppression laws that will disenfranchise communities of color, it is critical that we pass the Voter Empowerment Act to strengthen the integrity of our elections and ensure that voting is equal, fair and accessible for all Americans. We owe it to Congressman Lewis’ legacy and to our democracy.”
“Voting rights are preservative of every right in our democracy, and the Voter Empowerment Act, originally authored by my parishioner and mentor John Lewis, is one of the most important steps we can take to expand access to the ballot and help ensure that the people are able to make their voices heard,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “Especially following the rash of voter suppression proposals being enacted in Georgia and offered nationwide, this critical legislation will make it easier for people to vote and is essential to ensuring our democracy is by the people and working for the people. I’m proud to stand with Senator Gillibrand, Chairman Clyburn and Representative Williams in honoring the legacy of our hero by working to get this legislation over the finish line.”
The Voter Empowerment Act takes a comprehensive approach to closing the gaps in voting access and ensuring that every American can participate in the electoral process. Specifically, it would do the following:
Ensure Access to the Ballot
- Modernize the voter registration system
- Ensure access to online voter registration
- Ensure ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military or overseas
- Allow same day registration
- Notify voters when voting changes are made
- Encourage youth to become voters
- Assist voters with disabilities
- Restore rehabilitated citizens’ right to vote
Preserve Integrity in Voting Systems
- Provide informed and reliable poll workers
- Count all provisional ballots
- Prohibit voter caging
- Protect voters from deceptive practices and intimidation
Demand Accountability in Election Administration
- Create a national voter hotline
- Ensure votes are counted correctly
- Reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission
See bill text here.