THE INTRODUCTION OF H.R. 12, THE VOTER EMPOWERMENT ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 159, No. 8
(Extensions of Remarks - January 23, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E54]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                            HON. JOHN LEWIS

                               of georgia

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, January 23, 2013

  Mr. LEWIS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce the Voter 
Empowerment Act.
  I am proud to be joined by my friends and colleagues--the Gentleman 
from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn), the Gentleman from Maryland (Mr. 
Hoyer), the Gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Brady), the Gentleman from 
Michigan (Mr. Conyers), and over 160 of our Democratic colleagues in 
sponsoring this landmark legislation. Our good friend, Senator 
Gillibrand, is also introducing the companion to the Voter Empowerment 
Act in the Senate.
  Today, January 23rd marks the 49th anniversary of the 24th Amendment 
to the U.S. Constitution. This is the amendment which ended poll taxes, 
a tool used to undermine the right to vote for millions of African 
Americans. On this day, we must recommit ourselves in mind, body, and 
spirit to fight both overt and covert impediments to the most powerful 
non-violent tool we have in a democratic society.
  The right to vote is precious, almost sacred, yet millions of 
Americans are still not registered to vote. How can we continue to be 
global leaders in promoting democratic values and principles, when so 
many citizens still face barriers to participating in an electoral 
  When my colleagues and I introduced this legislation last year, we 
urged prompt action to ensure access, accountability, and integrity in 
our nation's electoral system. Last November, we all watched aghast as 
Americans stood in line for hours on end determined to cast their vote. 
Some were able to weather the difficulties, while others were forced to 
give up. Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable. Earlier this week, the 
President stated in his inaugural address that, ``Our journey is not 
complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the 
right to vote.''
  The Voter Empowerment Act responds to that call to action with a 
plan. H.R. 12 modernizes the voter registration system in this nation. 
It helps voters with disabilities, members of the military and young 
people to fully access their right to vote and to have their vote 
  The VEA also restores the integrity of the voting system, by 
providing well-informed, well-trained poll workers who know the law, 
and ensuring that election officials don't have a vested interest in 
the outcome of political campaigns. This bill protects voters from 
deceptive practices and intimidation and prohibits voter caging, and 
will ensure that every vote is counted. H.R. 12 creates a national 
hotline so that problems are reported, corrected and prevented in real 
time, and it reauthorizes the Election Assistance Commission, the only 
agency with election administration expertise, to ensure the highest 
standards are being met nationwide.
  People sacrificed their lives for this precious right. We have a duty 
to honor this legacy and the lives that were lost by ensuring this 
sacred right. We must all come together to guarantee open, fair, free 
access to democracy in our great country. I hope that each and every 
one of my colleagues will join me in support of this landmark