Lewis Leads On Subject Close to His Heart

JLewisOn January 23, 2013, House Democrats joined Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Administration Committee Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-PA), and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) in reintroducing the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 (H.R.12). The Voter Empowerment Act will help ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, it will modernize the voter registration system and take the necessary steps to help deter and eliminate voter fraud.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- New York) introduced a companion version of the bill in the Senate.

The Voter Empowerment Act (VEA) includes: 1) Ensuring Access to the Ballot 2)Preserving Integrity in Voting Systems and 3)Demanding Accountability in Election Administration.

Voters in 2012 experienced major delays and barriers to exercising their right to vote, including here in Georgia. Congressman Lewis has long fought against voter suppression and his civil rights legacy is grounded in this basic human principle.   Rep. John Lewis said, “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.  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.”

So why are Republicans and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp against the resolution?  The rationale against the advocacy of voter empowerment is neither sound or justified but Kemp has been quoted as saying, “I also think that this is a choice that Americans have, and that’s what makes America great. Some people don’t want to be registered to vote.”

It is unfortunate that Congressman Lewis and others have to reintroduce this act to help secure and ensure the voting integrity of our election system, when the 1965 law empowered the federal government to oversee voter registration and elections and banned discriminatory literacy tests and obstacles to voting.  Secretary Kemp’s words reflect either historical amnesia or political pandering—-Georgians and Americans deserve the Voting Empowerment Act of 2013.