Press Release

Senator Gillibrand Re-Introduces Voter Empowerment Act To Eliminate Barriers To Voting, Ensure All Americans Have Equal And Fair Access To The Ballot

Sep 12, 2016

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today re-introduced the Senate version of the Voter Empowerment Act. The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis along with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Robert Brady, and more than 170 Democratic Members of Congress. 

Currently, 20 states have created new barriers to the ballot box since 2010. The Voter Empowerment Act would help eliminate these barriers by ensuring voters have access to the ballot, preserving integrity in voting systems, and demanding accountability in elections. 

“Our right to vote is sacred – it’s one of the most precious rights we have as American citizens – and we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m proud to reintroduce the Voter Empowerment Act to help give Americans the opportunity to have their voices heard on Election Day without obstruction. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation, which would modernize our voter registration process, eliminate barriers that discourage people from casting their ballots, and ensure that voting is equal, fair, and accessible for all Americans.” 

“At a time when states have faced controversial efforts to limit voting access, Congressional action to set a baseline of fair and sensible voting rules is especially needed,” said Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The Voter Empowerment Act has a range of crucial reforms, broadly supported by election experts, that would ensure fair and equal access to the ballot box, modernize voter registration, and strengthen election integrity.” 

“All across the Country we are witnessing evidence of ongoing voter discrimination and efforts to suppress the right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, President & Executive Director, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We stand with the Senator in calling for Congress to take action to pass the Voter Empowerment Act to ensure that all American’s are able to exercise the most important right in our Democracy.” 

The Voter Empowerment Act addresses the major delays and barriers that voters of both political parties from around the country experienced during the 2012 election cycle. Specifically, this legislation would do the following: 

Ensure Access to the Ballot:

  • Modernize the voter registration system
  • Ensure access to online voter registration
  • Ensure ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military or overseas
  • Allow same day registration
  • Notify voters when voting changes are made
  • Encourage youth to become voters
  • Assist voters with disabilities
  • Restore rehabilitated citizens’ right to vote 

Preserve Integrity in Voting Systems:

  • Restore trust in elections officials
  • Provide informed and reliable poll workers
  • Count all provisional ballots
  • Prohibit voter caging
  • Protect voters from deceptive practices and intimidation 

Demand Accountability in Election Administration:

  • Create a national voter hotline
  • Ensure votes are counted correctly
  • Reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission 

A one-pager on the Voter Empowerment Act may be found here.