Protecting Our Voting Rights
Voting is the most fundamental right in our democracy, yet many Republican legislatures across the nation are passing legislation that drastically limits the ability of Americans to vote. In 2011, nineteen laws and two executive actions passed in 14 states. These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012. These changes will hit vulnerable communities the hardest: our seniors, those who are disabled, college students, and low-income Americans. It is unconstitutional, and unacceptable. These provisions will prevent eligible Americans from participating in our democracy.
I recently introduced H.R.2540, Voter Protection Hotline Act of 2011. The bill directs the Attorney General (AG) to establish and operate a toll-free telephone service through which individuals may: (1) obtain information on voting in elections for federal office, including how to register to vote, the hours of operation of polling places, and how to obtain absentee ballots; and (2) report problems encountered in registering to vote or voting, including incidences of voter intimidation or suppression.
I also initiated a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to urge the Justice Department to exercise oversight on photo identification legislation that is pending or has passed in state legislatures across the nation. In the letter, I call for the Department of Justice to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. For jurisdictions where Section 5 is inapplicable, the letter exhorts the Justice Department to scrutinize state legislation for discriminatory intent against minority classes covered under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. One-hundred fifteen members co-signed the letter, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn.