House Democrats Unveil Comprehensive Voting Rights Legislation

May 17, 2012
Press Release

Voter Empowerment Act will modernize voter registration & ensure equal access to ballot box

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-6), Rep. John Conyers (MI-14), and Rep. Robert Brady (PA-1) unveiled comprehensive voting rights legislation. The Voter Empowerment Act will modernize voter registration, ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans, and prohibit deceptive practices and voter fraud that keep people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Less than six months away from a presidential election, Democrats will not sit idly by as states across the country attempt to pass unprecedented laws that would erect barriers to voting for military, disabled, minority, young, elderly and low-income Americans.

Rep. Lewis stated, “The ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple.  Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote today than it was even one year ago.  The sponsors of this act believe we need to take action or risk losing the liberties we have enjoyed.  We should be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out.”

Democratic Whip Hoyer stated, “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the Voter Empowerment Act. Just six months from a presidential election and amid an unprecedented drive to impose new restrictions on who can vote in states across the country, Democrats will fight for the right to vote and for the integrity of our electoral system. This bill is a major step towards greater accountability and broader access. Moving forward, we will continue to shine a light on efforts to deter eligible voters from the exercising their rights."

Assistant Democratic Leader Clyburn stated, “Everywhere I go, people are expressing great concern and are asking whether or not their access to the ballot and ballot box are going to remain unfettered.  The Voter Empowerment Act contains three main parts: improving access, protecting integrity and ensuring accountability.  If adopted, it will go a long ways towards making our nation a more perfect Union.”

Rep. Conyers stated, “There is no more important right in our society than the right to vote – it is the foundation of all of our other rights enshrined in the Constitution.  Unfortunately the right to vote is under attack in too many states and today we stand together to protect that precious right.  Our legislation will help protect the right to vote for veterans, senior citizens, students, and minorities who are vulnerable to disenfranchisement.  This should not be a partisan issue, but a legal and moral imperative for both parties.”   

Rep. Brady stated, "This bill ensures that everyone – seniors, the disabled, working families, students and our military can register to vote.  It makes registering to vote simpler, faster, and more secure for each and every American. The Voter Empowerment Act reaffirms the basic principle our democracy: one person, one vote"

Rep. Gonzalez stated, “The right to vote is the heart and foundation of our system of government, and it is our constitutional duty to protect that right. The Voter Empowerment Act brings our electoral system into the 21st Century, ensuring that our citizens have access to the best system of voting and that their right to participate in our government is always protected.”

A fact sheet on the bill can be found here.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

Statements of Support for the Voter Empowerment Act:

American Association of People with Disabilities

 “Political participation is at the core of what it means to be an American.  That is why it is one of the four primary goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ” said AAPD President and CEO Mark Perriello. “ Our elected officials should be dedicating their energies to ensuring that every eligible voter has access to the ballot—not shutting anyone out.  Unfortunately, states have passed laws that keep people with disabilities and others from registering, casting a vote, or having access to a secret ballot.  We support the goals of the Voter Empowerment Act, which is intended to protect millions of Americans from disenfranchisement.  AAPD looks forward to working with members of Congress to safeguard the right to vote,” he added.

Asian American Justice Center

“The Voter Empowerment Act is a strong starting point for our discussion on moving our country forward and re-establishing the United States as a model for other democracies around the world.”

The Brennan Center for Justice

“Our nation’s ramshackle voter registration system does not work for 21st century America,” said Wendy Weiser, Democracy Program Director. “No matter your political party, we can all agree that every eligible American should have the opportunity to vote. Modernizing voter registration is something everyone can get behind. It is an innovative reform that could add more than 50 million eligible citizens to the rolls, permanently. We are pleased that House members included this vital proposal in their new voting bill.”

Common Cause

"Nothing is more precious in our democracy than our right to vote. Our history proves that. The Voter Empowerment Act will help safeguard that right."


"Demos salutes the introduction of legislation today that aims to ensure that all eligible citizens can register and vote.  The Voter Empowerment Act seeks to provide more access to the ballot, more efficiency in our election systems, and more accountability in our elections."


“The Voter Empowerment Act has common-sense provisions that represent international norms and should not be the subject of political calculation. It seeks to modernize voter registration and allow eligible voters who are not registered before Election Day a fair chance to participate. It reestablishes the value of the Election Assistance Commission, which remains without commissioners, and twisting in the political winds, despite ongoing evidence of the need for national standards and performance measures….Moreover, we hope that HR 5799 represents a turning point where Congress once again recognizes its obligation to uphold voting rights for all American citizens and for both major parties to come together to accept the right to vote as fundamental.”

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

“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.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights 

“The Voter Empowerment Act is a comprehensive plan to strengthen elections, combat voter exclusion, and expand voter participation. We applaud the bill’s sponsors and urge the House to give it serious consideration as soon as possible.”

League of Women Voters

“The Voter Empowerment Act takes important steps to protect voters, including a new system for online voter registration and improvements in the provisional balloting system to ensure that all eligible citizens have their votes counted,” according to Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League of Women Voters.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

“Since our inception in 1909, the NAACP has fought for equality in voting rights. We believe that voting is the most fundamental civil right, and should be readily available to all Americans, regardless of their age, income, race, ethnicity, gender, employment status, physical disability, where they live, or other differences.  For that reason, we strongly support the Voter Empowerment Act.”

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund

"The right to vote is one of the most precious rights afforded to Americans by the United States Constitution. We applaud the introduction of a congressional proposal to uphold and protect this cornerstone of our democracy. The Voter Empowerment Act of 2012 is an important step towards ensuring broad access to the ballot and robust voter engagement among eligible Latino voters and all Americans."

Project Vote

“The goals of the Voter Empowerment Act are to provide more access to the ballot, to protect the integrity of voting systems, and to ensure accountability in elections. Project Vote supports measures that make voting more accessible and convenient, and which bring down barriers to voting for eligible Americans.”

Rock the Vote

"The Voter Empowerment Act is a positive step toward ensuring that every person who is eligible to cast a ballot is able to do so."

Congress Number: 
112th Congress