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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2012
3:59 PM

Lawyers' Committee Applauds Efforts to Protect Voting Rights of ALL Americans

WASHINGTON - May 17 - The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is pleased that Members of the House of Representatives are moving forward on significant components of long overdue voting legislation that will address the real problems occurring in our election system today.  This bill offers much needed reforms to our antiquated voter registration system, increases access to the ballot, secures the integrity of elections, combats voter suppression, and increases accountability in our elections. These are real solutions for real problems.  The House Democratic Leadership should be commended for pulling together a Congressional coalition focused on protecting and defending the fundamental right to vote and we look forward to broadening that coalition across the aisle.

The Voter Empowerment Act has several critical components that the Lawyers' Committee has long advocated for as necessary changes to our voting laws.  Most importantly, the Act lays the groundwork for Voter Registration Modernization.  As a leader and organizer of the Election Protection Coalition, the largest non-partisan voter protection coalition in the nation, we have years of data documenting the problems voters encounter at the polling place.  In 2008, nearly one-third of all problem reported to Election Protection were related to our antiquated voter registration system.  "Our outdated and cumbersome voter registration system is the single largest cause of voting problems," says Lawyers' Committee Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House.  "Americans need and deserve a modern election system."

Our voter registration system is in many ways a relic of the early 19th century.  Hence, we welcome the inclusion of language in the Voter Empowerment Act that begins to address these issues.  In particular, the Voter Empowerment Act creates a secure system utilizing technology to automatically and permanently enroll all consenting eligible voters and to provide a failsafe election-day correction This modernized system will drastically reform the current inefficient and costly system while preventing election officials from being overwhelmed and thus more prone to mistakes on election day. 

Additionally, the Lawyers' Committee is pleased that the Voter Empowerment Act takes the important step of continuing to address ongoing election integrity concerns. By criminalizing certain types of inexcusable deceptive voting practices, prohibiting voter caging and ensuring that all ballots are counted, including provisional ballots. Americans will disengage from the election process if they lack confidence in its integrity. "Fair and open elections are the legs our democracy stands upon," follows Mrs. House.  "Allowing groups like True the Vote and others with the resources and savvy to hijack elections through deceptive practices and voter intimidation is unequivocally un-American."   The Lawyers' Committee will continue its efforts through Election Protection, including litigation and voter education to protect ALL voters, and are encouraged this bill will begin the necessary conversation on how to keep the legs of our democracy strong.

Finally, the Lawyers' Committee is pleased the Voter Empowerment Act calls on the Department of Justice to provide meaningful support to voters, collect data about the true problems American voters face, and report on their findings to Congress. 

The Lawyers' Committee applauds the House Democratic Leadership for their vision to answer the call for real and effective election reform that, instead of erecting barriers to the ballot box, works to uplift the true meaning of American democratic ideals.  As Congressman John Lewis often notes, this nation has come a long way since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but still has much farther to go.  We will continue to work with all Members of Congress not only on the Voter Empowerment Act, but other voting initiatives as well that will move this country forward in that long path to justice.

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The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law.


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