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Washington, D.C. – Following a presidential election marred by long lines and confusion at the polls, the Brennan Center for Justice highlighted a proposal today to modernize voter registration and bring America’s election system into the 21st century — just days after President Obama mentioned voting reform in his inaugural address.
The plan, Voter Registration Modernization (VRM), is the centerpiece of the Voter Empowerment Act, being introduced today by Reps. John Lewis, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, John Conyers, and Robert Brady, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
“The ramshackle voter registration system is a prime cause of long lines and Election Day chaos. We have a chance to modernize our elections so that every eligible citizen is on the rolls, with lower costs and greater election security,” said Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center. “On Election Day, President Obama said we need to fix this. Here’s how.”
Read Waldman’s Reuters op-ed on the Voter Empowerment Act.
Tomorrow, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Brennan Center is hosting a lunch-time event with leading Secretaries of State to discuss modernizing voter registration to improve our election system. Speakers include Hon. Kate Brown (D-Ore.), Hon. Alvin A. Jaeger (R-N.D.), and Hon. Ross James Miller (D-Nev.).
Voter Registration Modernization:
- Establishes voluntary, automated registration of all consenting citizens when they interact with a wide range of government agencies.
- Makes registration portable, keeping voters on the rolls even when they move.
- Provides fail-safe procedures to ensure that eligible voters whose information is not on the rolls or not up to date can correct the information online or at the polls.
- Offers states federal funding to make necessary technological upgrades.
The benefits are substantial:
- It boosts election integrity, providing safeguards against hacking and curbing the potential for fraud.
- It could help bring up to 50 million eligible voters into the political process.
- It costs less than the current paper-based system.
“America was founded with the principle that we are all ‘created equal.’ Our core value of civic equality means that every American should be able to count on fair access to the ballot box,” said Wendy Weiser, Democracy Program Director. “Citizens who took the responsibility to vote had to stand in lines as long as seven hours. For far too many, these delays happened because of problems with the voter registration system, which prevents millions from making their voices heard. Voter Registration Modernization would help solve this problem. It embodies the best of American values: choice, freedom, opportunity, and mutual responsibility. And it would vastly improve our democracy.”
The Voter Empowerment Act includes a number of other key reforms. Among other provisions, the bill would:
- Prevent voter disenfranchisement as a result of “voter caging,” a process that involves efforts to remove registered voters solely on the basis of undeliverable mail.
- End deceptive practices designed to confuse voters on Election Day.
- Restore the right to vote in federal elections to individuals with past criminal convictions.
- Require voter verified paper ballots and post-election audits to ensure the accuracy of election results.