Friday, February 04, 2005

Rep. Conyers Introduces Voting Rights Act


February 2, 2005

Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement upon introduction of the “Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act,” or the “VOTER Act of 2005":

“We have just experienced the second consecutive presidential election where issues were raised concerning irregularities and improprieties. For example, in Ohio we learned of the misallocation of voting machines, which led to lines of ten hours or more and disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority voters. We also learned of numerous incidents of voter intimidation, as well as the dissemination of misleading information. Members on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that further reforms are needed to ensure that all of our citizens' rights to vote are protected.

As a result, the VOTER Act will provide for a uniform Federal write-in/absentee ballot;require states to provide for a verifiable audit trail; ensure that provisional ballots cast anywhere in a state are counted; eliminate disparities in the allocation of voting machines and poll workers among a state's precincts; mandate early voting and election day registration procedures; protect against improper purging of legistration lists in federal elections; provide for a study regarding making election day a public holiday; ease voter registration requirements; allow voter identification by written affidavit; study eliminating partisan election officials from administering federal elections; enhance training for election officials; require the use of publicly available open source software in voting machines; provide uniform standards for vote recounts; prohibit voting machine companies from engaging in political activities; and enhance legal protections against voter intimidation and threats.

The legislation is supported by the NAACP, the NAACP Voter Fund, the Progressive Democrats of America, the UAW, the Black Leadership Forum, Rainbow Push, and the National Voting Rights Institute. The legislation is the House counterpart to S. 17, legislation introduced in the Senate by Senator Chris Dodd on behalf of the Senate Democratic Leadership.

It is imperative that we have elections that count every vote of every eligible voter. A provisional ballot cast anywhere in the State of Ohio should count just as it does in the State of Iowa. There is no reason that voters in inner city areas should be forced to wait in long lines,while their counterparts in the suburbs are able to vote immediately. If voters in Oregon can vote early, why can't voters in Michigan; if citizens of Idaho enjoy same day registration, why can't voters in Florida; and if voters in Wisconsin can have their elections administered by nonpartisan boards, why can't the rest of us?

If there is any issue that is central to our democracy, it is ensuring that eligible voters are able to participate in our elections. Enacting the VOTER Act of 2005 will help ensure that we restore trust in our election system.”


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