Leahy & Senate Dems Introduce Bill To Increase Voter Participation

. . . Automatic Voter Registration Legislation Modeled After Successes In Vermont and Other States

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 14, 2016) – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Thursday to make it easier for all Americans to vote and to participate in our democracy by making registration automatic. 

The Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016 requires states to automatically register those who are eligible to vote when they interact with certain state and federal agencies, unless those people decline.  The bill would streamline the voter registration process and allow citizens to register online, making it easier for individuals who move to update their information and be able to exercise their right to vote.  It also includes privacy protections to ensure information collected can only be used for voter registration, election administration, or prosecution of election crimes.  A companion bill was introduced Thursday in the House by Congressman Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.).

“Vermont is leading the way by enacting an automatic voter registration law to improve access to the ballot box.  Now imagine if we can provide similar improvements to the registration rolls for every state in this great nation,” Leahy said.  “Our union can only become stronger and more representative with the participation of a broader electorate.” 

Five states -- California, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia -- have enacted automatic voter registration laws.  In a report released last year, the Brennan Center estimated that automatic voter registration could add 50 million eligible voters to the rolls.

Cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and we should be doing all we can to strengthen this right,” Klobuchar said.  “Minnesota has one of the highest statewide voter turnout rates in the country, and our new effort will help ensure that Americans in all our states have their voices heard.”

Leahy is also the lead author of the Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and expand on the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.  Since the Supreme Court gutted the core of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder three years ago, states and localities throughout the country have passed sweeping laws that disproportionately suppress the voting rights of minorities.  These laws have left voters without the protections they need to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the federal government’s ability to prevent racial discriminatory voting changes from taking effect before those changes occur.  It would further target certain voting practices known to suppress the voting rights of minorities, and apply those protections nationwide. 

An outline of the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2016 can be found here, and text of legislation can also be found online.

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