Legislation to Expand Access to Voting Processes and Protect Voters from Suppression, Deception, and Other Forms of Disenfranchisement
(Washington, DC) — Today, the NAACP announced its strong support for H.R. 5799, the Voter Empowerment Act. Introduced by Congressman John Lewis (GA) and co-sponsored by 125 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the new legislation expands and protects voters’ access to the polls and increases accountability and integrity among election officials and poll workers. The Voter Empowerment Act focuses on guaranteeing early voting, allowing same-day registration, outlawing “voter caging,” counting provisional ballots, and penalizing voter intimidation.
“Voter suppression measures launched in several states potentially disenfranchise over five million eligible voters,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “Although the NAACP and other organizations are increasing efforts to mobilize and inform voters of voting and registration laws, the new legislation provides an opportunity for Congress to ensure that the right to vote for all Americans is protected fairly and uniformly throughout the country.”
The law also expands eligibility to allow all former offenders who have paid their debt to society and been released from prison, including those who are may still be on probation or parole, to register and vote in federal elections. Currently, 49 states have felony disenfranchisement laws, prohibiting an additional 5.3 million Americans from voting. Iowa, Florida, Virginia, and Kentucky permanently disenfranchise all people with felony convictions, unless the government restores individual rights. In those four states, alone, nearly 32 percent of the population affected by voter disenfranchisement is African-American.
“Felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect people of color and suppress the minority vote,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Restoring the rights of former offenders is crucial to preserving democracy to all individuals who have served their time under the law.”
Last December, the NAACP released the report “Defending Democracy” which detailed the various attacks on voting rights and urged the adoption of federal legislation to expand voting rights for all citizens. The report can be viewed at http://www.naacp.org/pages/defending-democracy
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