House Democrats, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, on Wednesday reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013. The legislation aims to improve the nation's voting processes and standards to restore access, integrity and accountability to the election system.
"The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. Too many people in this country had to give their lives to exercise a right already guaranteed them by the Constitution. Outlawing the poll tax 49 years ago does not mean we are finished protecting democratic freedom," Lewis said. "New challenges to equal access still arise today. To be a credible voice for equal justice abroad, we must be watchful here at home to alleviate every historic and current impediment to the democratic process."
The bill was initially introduced last year after several Republican-led states enacted new voting laws that made registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult for potentially millions of voters.
It includes provisions to modernize the voter registration system, ensure access to online voter registration and allow same-day registration. When voters move, their registration would move with them and they'd be able to correct their information at the polls. The bill also calls for them to be notified when any changes are made to voting rules and other election-related matters and would end deceptive practices devised to confuse them on Election Day. In addition, ex-felons would have their voting rights restored.
"We urgently need to update our federal laws to safeguard the sacred right of American citizens to vote," said Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, a co-sponsor of the law. "This legislation will end recently enacted creative devices that constitute a modern version of the poll tax."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)