Recently, five forward-looking members of Congress introduced the “Equal Access to Support Youth Voting Act” or “EASY” (H.R. 5144). It should be easy to pass. It is a common sense reform that would help students, one of the very populations that we’re always hoping will become more involved in the democratic process. Unfortunately, like so many other common sense election reform bills in recent years, this one will not be easy to pass.
At a time when voting rights is an issue of national concern, and the problems faced by voters in 2012 have not faded from memory, election administration is a critical component in the voting rights picture.
On the 50th anniversary of the historic “Freedom Summer” and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Project Vote Legislative Director Estelle Rogers remembers the struggle for equal rights (and begging her parents to join the voter registration efforts in Mississippi) and how the struggle continues today.
One year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, gutting the preclearance requirements of the Act. The Court’s main criticism of Section 4(b) was that its coverage formula, used to determine which states and local jurisdictions needed preclearance for voting changes per Section 5, was out of date. Fortunately, the Court invited Congress to step in and enact an updated coverage formula. An updated, modern coverage formula is necessary to allow the Voting Rights Act to continue to combat discrimination before a person’s rights are actually violated.
Congress’s approval ratings are at all-time record lows. Americans have lost faith in our elected officials. The public no longer believes that Congress can get past the partisan gridlock plaguing our nation and achieve anything of substance. However, members of Congress have been given an historic opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the American people. They can prove that the system can still function, that they can come together across the aisle to make our democracy work for every citizen.