NAACP Supports Legislation to Expand Access to Voting Processes and Protect Voters from Suppression

H.R. 5799, THE VOTER EMPOWERMENT ACT, WOULD ALSO EXPAND ELIGIBILITY TO EX-FELONY OFFENDERS TO VOTE ONCE THEY LEAVE PRISON

In a time when numerous states are considering or have already enacted legislation to restrict or suppress voter participation, Congressman John Lewis (GA) and over 125 of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced H.R. 5799, the Voter Empowerment Act.  This important legislation would expand and protect voters’ access to the polls and would increase accountability and integrity among election officials and poll workers.  It also would expand eligibility to allow all ex-offenders who have been released from prison (even those who may still be on probation or parole) to register and vote in federal elections.

Specifically, the Voter Empowerment Act would:

  • Guarantee Early Voting – require that every state establish early voting sites that are open at least 15 days prior to a general election day;
  • Require Automatic Registration – the bill would use modern technology to automatically and permanently register all eligible voters;
  • Allow Same-Day Registration throughout the country – H.R. 5799 would ensure allow voters to register to vote on election day at their polling place;
  • Ensure on-line voter registration – the Voter Empowerment Act would ensure that on-line voter registration is a viable option nationally;
  • Outlaw “voter caging” – makes illegal a practice by which mail is sent to a registered voter's address and, if the mail is returned as "undeliverable" or if it is delivered and the voter does not respond, his or her registration is challenged;
  • Clarify and strengthen the use of provisional ballots – ensures that provisional ballots are counted;
  • Make voter intimidation and deception punishable by law – with strong and tough penalties so that people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the wrist, and establish a process for reaching out to misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time;
  • Re-enfranchise ex-offenders – H.R. 5799 incorporates the provisions of the NAACP–supported “Democracy Restoration Act” by allowing ex-offenders, once they are out of prison, the opportunity to register and vote in federal elections without challenges or complication;
  • Encourage youth voters – the Voter Empowerment Act requires colleges and universities to offer and encourage voter registration to all students;
  • Assure voting by overseas residents – H.R. 5799 increases assurances that Americans who may be living overseas, especially those serving our country in the armed services, can cast a valid vote and be assured that their vote was counted.

THE NAACP STRONGLY SUPPORTS H.R. 5799, THE VOTER EMPOWERMENT ACT, AND URGES ITS IMMEDIATE ENACTMENT INTO LAW.

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