House Democrats push bill to expand access to ballot box
May 17th, 2012
04:24 PM ET
8 years ago

House Democrats push bill to expand access to ballot box

Washington (CNN) - Six months before a national election whose results could hinge on which party turns out more supporters, House Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday they say is needed to ensure all eligible voters have unfettered access to the ballot box.

"The vote is the soul and the heart of the democratic process, People died for the right to vote, and some of them were people I knew," Rep John Lewis, D-Georgia, a leading figure in the civil rights movement said at a Capitol Hill press conference. "I hope and pray that we will not return to the days of overt discrimination, before we decide to do something about it."

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Lewis said that three million voters were turned away at the polls in 2008. Democrats and civil rights advocates who worked on the measure over the last few months argue barriers are increasing that could disenfranchise voters across the country this November. They cited 16 states where same-day voter registration has been eliminated, rules in some states adding requirements to what kind of ID voters need to show to get a ballot and inadequate training for poll workers.

The Voter Empowerment Act would allow same day registration online, require schools that get federal funds to offer voter registration drives, and give states money to train poll workers. It also classifies voter "caging" as a felony. This is the practice of sending mail to addresses with the aim of creating a list of people whose mail is returned as a way of challenging someone's voting status or purging the rolls of names.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, summarized the three key aims of the bill as "access, integrity and accountability."

While several Democrats at Thursday's news conference complained new state laws changing identification rules were deliberately designed to suppress the vote, and amount to a form of a "poll tax," their bill does not address the issue. South Carolina Rep Jim Clyburn noted every voter needs to produce identification, but they decided to set that issue aside as states continue to litigate it in the courts.

Democrats are pushing for prompt action on the bill, but Rep Dan Lungren, the GOP Chairman of the House Administration Committee which oversees voting system, has not said whether the committee will take up the measure. The bills' sponsors said they want bipartisan support, but they introduced it before showing it to Republicans on the committee.

A senior Democratic aide tells CNN that the Democrats on the Administration Committee plan to send a letter urging action on the bill, attempting to apply some pressure on the Republican House to address the issue before the election.

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Filed under: Democrats • House
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. roadwarrior

    your time is almost up it doesnt matter what you say or do you bunch of demastooges and your worthless leader are going to lose and all your stupid supporters shall be disappear for ever

    May 17, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. Myviewis

    @Bob – you did watch CNN when they reported on the Black Panthers intimidating voters and the case going to court?

    May 17, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "I think CNN did a pretty good job covering the court case of the Black Panthers intimidating voters at the polling place back in 2008 and of King Samir Shabaaz thanking president Obama for dropping the charges against the Black Panthers."

    Dummy. The charges weren't all dropped and the two goofs who pulled that stunt did get punished. There simply wasn't evidence to support hanging them from the nearest tree the way you'd like to.

    May 17, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  4. Woman In California

    You can feel the FEAR of republicans this election just reading the comments from aliens such as Myviews and BEND.

    Willard has found out our president is NOT Gingrich and Santorum and cannot be intimiated easily especially by a good for nothing draft dodger whose only claim to fame is on the back of his millionaire father. Keep showing your fear, I get a kick out of it.

    May 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  5. heathergirl1234

    Democrats would like anyone who walks into a voting place to be able to vote. They do this because they know the majority of illegal immigrants will vote Democrat.

    If Democrats thought for a moment that people not legally allowed to vote, would vote for Republicans, they would be the first to demand ID's for voting!

    Democrats do not care about voter fraud, just so long as all the draudulant votes are for them!

    May 17, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  6. Minx

    Your right we all saw the black panther slapping a billie club in his hand in front of a polling place. We don't have any other pictures of anyone else scaring people thats for sure. I know you want to go back to the 1950's to bring up the sins of some hooded morons but I do not know anyone that cares about RACE but the race hustlers and deomocats. That era is over.

    May 17, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  7. Myviewis

    @Sniffit – Charges were dropped against the New Black Panther Party and Jerry Jackson. The charges against King Shabazz were minimized.

    May 17, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Myviewis

    @Sniffit – I forgot to tell you in case you don't know that the Justice Department obtained a default judgement against King Samir Shabazz prohibiting him for 3 years from displaying a weapon near a polling place and I believe that judgement will expire before November 2012.

    May 17, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  9. Woman In California


    Democrats would like anyone who walks into a voting place to be able to vote. They do this because they know the majority of illegal immigrants will vote Democrat.

    If Democrats thought for a moment that people not legally allowed to vote, would vote for Republicans, they would be the first to demand ID's for voting!

    Democrats do not care about voter fraud, just so long as all the draudulant votes are for them!

    I'm so glad you got your vision and hearing back because obviously, you were DEAF and DUMB when W stole the election from John Kerry who was and is quite capable of LEADING. He also served his country. Can you say the same for George?

    May 17, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  10. T'sah From Virginia

    ►ladyfon – “Voter ID law that Republican's tried to pass, stated that if you do claim that you cannot afford identification, it will be provided at no charge.” ◄

    That's a LIE – Republicans are NOT going to pay for state IDs – PERIOD!! As a matter of fact, Gov Haley of MS offered to take 178,000 unregistered voters or voters without IDs to the DMV and pay for it for ONE DAY ONLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are MILLIONS of people that do not have photo IDs – times that by $8-12 each – Come on now, REALLY??????

    The Republicans main goal is to suppress a lot of votes; they do not want to see a repeat of 2008 – Whart happened in 2008? Many minorities came out and voted for President Obama and they will do it again!! The Repubs say they are trying to prevent “voter fraud” – yes, 0.0002% of fraud was recorded in the entire country during the 2008 election.

    In the year 2012 – almost 50 years after the fight for voter rights and to end segregation – here we are again suppressing votes for no other reason but to try to win an election "dishonestly." Voting should be FREE and a utility bill worked in the past!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    May 17, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. kayla

    don't worry mr lewis. president obama will still win

    May 17, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. ps54

    Woman in California, What service did Obama serve in????? You call Romney a draft dodger. Kettle calling the pot black I see.

    May 17, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  13. Donkey Party

    There are about 3 Black Panthers, but the right-wingers think there's 3 million of them. Their ignorance knows no bounds.

    May 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  14. Squealy

    Do you know how many cases of verified voter fraud the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) working on this issue in 2011 came up with to back their cause? 311 cases since 1997. There were over 131 million votes cast in the 2008 election alone. So, the only logical conclusion is that republicans are making a huge stink out of this because their base is dwindling – dying a natural death as the population shifts towards more young and non-white voters – those who more likely vote dem. So, as they go bullying their way around the joint, they need to remember, it is the meek that shall inherit the earth.

    May 17, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  15. kat

    For Obama, any vote is a good vote, fraudulent or not

    May 17, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  16. Military For Sale by Owner

    military homes for sale in rent.

    May 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain

    Obama 2012 – Bend yada yada: I feel sorry for you and your ilk that you are so dumb and easily fooled. You believe anything Fox and Limbaugh tell you, don't you?

    How do you manage to get dressed for work in the morning?

    Oh, that's right: You were laid off long ago, part of the workforce whose jobs were shipped to China by folks like Mittens and the GOP ... catch a clue!

    May 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  18. Liz the First

    The republicans have done everything they can to keep any likely Democratic voters from participating because they know we greatly outnumber them. here's their dirty little secret, they don't believe in democracy, they are fighting to achieve one-party (theirs) rule!!! and if this happens, it will be the end of this country. if we don't stop this blatant assault on the right to vote, we will lose our democracy and all our rights. the boogeyman of 'voter fraud' is a nonexistent threat, an excuse to use any tactic they can to keep people from exercising their right to vote. this is a national shame.

    May 17, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  19. eque

    So, this black panther was the first time voter intimidation has ever existed. I dont recall any white folks losing their job, house being bomb, hung by the neck, from a black panther or any black person for that matter just for voting...U really want to talk about voter intimidations.

    May 17, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  20. eque

    Repubs, love playing this game, like we are stupid. This is voter supression plan and simple. Your voter ID is your ID to vote. Yes, If u show up for same day registration, u should have ID....The restraints on what type of ID, if u are resident of another state attending school in a different state, u can no longer use your Student ID to vote in the state u attend school, prohibiting first time voters to vote absentee, requiring elderly voters to produce birth certificates, when in certain communities (black) most elderly people were born at home with mid wives. The biggest evidence of all was that voter fraud was like .0000 in every state, basically non existence, so it begs the question if there was no evidence that supports all these changes, then why are all these RED states with Repub controlled houses inacting all these restrictive laws? I bet it has something to do with the Black guy in the WHITEhouse....

    May 17, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  21. MikeM

    It is about time, people start thinking about voting rights. The truth is that some of the folks in power want fewer people to vote, since that will mean that the people will be easier to control. The whole thing is about control and power. The people in power want control and more power. If they do not have to hear the American people, so be it! They just want to take and take, and they could care less who died for the right to vote. The fact is that there will be more people that are independent that will cast votes than any other group. We will not just go away!

    May 17, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  22. Bren

    With all due respect Mr. Lewis...........There is NOBODY preventing legal US citizens from voting. And, ID is required to do anything in this country, and voting should be the same. And, too bad for the people who wait to register/vote the same day and are not able to do so!!

    Just last week.........There was an article in the Miami Herald that said they found out THOUSANDS of foreigners were registered to vote in the Florida elections. Hmmmm.......Strange.....I do not remember CNN doing an article about this, but do a Google search on it?? If the Republicans in Georgia go along with what Mr. Lewis and the Democrats are trying to push-–which is give the right to vote to illegals, dead people, prisoners, people voting more than once, etc--then they are idiots!!

    May 17, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  23. Mike in Texas

    The Republican reason is rampant voter fraud. This is a garbage excuse. All of you crying about illegals are full of it. Republicans are making it harder for college students to register to vote. They are making it harder or impossible for people to get others to register to vote. That has nothing to do with illegals or voter fraud. More registered voters = higher turnout = easier path for victory for Obama. Republicans know the only way they win the White House is to suppress voters and lie an misinform a large number of ignorant people.

    May 17, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  24. Richard "BONEHEAD" Cheney

    Fat chance this bill will ever see the light of day.

    May 18, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  25. chris

    I bought a brand new car, I just told them my SSN.I've worked at my job for more then 15 yrs. never showed my boss my ID, I even use my C C, no ID. WHATS UP .If I mail in my ballot do I mail my I D also ?

    May 18, 2012 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
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