Letter to the Senate on the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013
June 25, 2013
On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we urge you to support and co-sponsor the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 (S. 123) by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). This legislation is more important than ever following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a core element of the Voting Rights Act, our nation’s most successful civil rights law.
NEA believes the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted, is the most basic tenet of a democratic society. The Voting Rights Act—enacted it in response to persistent and purposeful discrimination through literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation, threats, and violence—has had remarkable success in ensuring access to the voting booth. For millions of racial, ethnic, and language minority citizens, it has eliminated discriminatory practices and removed other barriers to political participation.
Yet, despite these successes, it is clear that inequities, disparities, and obstacles remain for far too many minority voters. Voter suppression and intimidation are still very much alive in our nation. In recent years, especially during the 2012 presidential election campaign, we have seen a deeply troubling increase in misleading and fraudulent information about elections, voter intimidation, and robocalls designed to suppress the vote guaranteed every citizen by the U.S. Constitution. In addition, we have seen an unprecedented number of anti-voter initiatives in state legislatures—proposals and laws enacted that require photo identification, eliminate same-day registration, shrink early voting windows, change student voting requirements, and make it hard for people to vote in other ways.
The Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 would open access to the ballot box through system modernization and simplification, ensuring the integrity of the voting process, and protecting the accountability of results. It also includes steps critical to enabling all citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote such as same-day registration, alleviating burdens for people with disabilities, training for poll workers, protecting against deceptive practices and intimidation, and establishing a national hotline for voting-related issues.
NEA is working aggressively to call attention to and combat initiatives and practices that deny or restrict the right to vote. We urge you to support and co-sponsor the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 to help ensure fair and open elections across our nation.
Director of Government Relations