Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

Congresswoman Sewell Signs on to Letter to Secretaries of State on Voting Rights

Nov 3, 2011
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) joined her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives in signing a letter that will be sent to all Secretaries of State expressing concerns that election legislation and the administration of elections have recently become more subject to partisanship in an effort to gain a political edge. The letter asks the Secretaries of State to put partisan considerations aside and serve as advocates for full voting rights for all.

“The voter ID legislation being passed in Alabama and states across this country discourages and delays full voter participation.  Voter ID laws have a disproportionate and unfair impact on low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minority voters, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and others. It is our obligation as legislators to work to ensure that all American citizens are given the opportunity to express their opinions by using the ballot box. The government should be in the business of encouraging not discouraging voters. In protecting my constituents in the 7th Congressional District of Alabama, I will continue to work vigilantly to ensure that state voter ID laws truly protect and not suppress our voters,” said Rep. Sewell.

A copy of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary ___________

We are writing to you to express our collective concern that the bipartisan consensus and partnership between all levels of government, which for decades has been a central principle of election administration, is deteriorating.

Beginning with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Congress and election officials across the country have worked on a bipartisan basis to open our democracy to all our citizens.  Removing unnecessary barriers to voting was a cause shared across party lines.  Sometimes, these efforts were directed at laws and practices that were intentionally created to deny citizens their right to vote.  Other times, the laws or practices were relics of a prior era and served no continuing purpose.

As a result of these efforts, the franchise was effectively extended to all our citizens.  Age, race, disability, language and military service were no longer impediments to voting.  Outdated voting equipment, inaccessible voting sites and living abroad no longer deprived individuals of their right to vote.  And these changes were made while putting into place safeguards against fraud. 

No progress would have been possible without bipartisan support.  There was a shared view that seeking partisan advantage at the expense of fellow citizens' voting rights was fundamentally wrong.  It diminished our democracy and undermined its legitimacy.

 But a disturbing trend is emerging.  Election legislation and administration appear to be increasingly the product of partisan plays.  Election officials are seen as partisan combatants, rather than stewards of our democracy.  It is critical for our democracy that this does not continue.  Voting hours, voting sites, identification requirements, voter registration regulation and access to mail ballots should not be used as weapons to achieve a preferred electoral outcome. 

We are asking you, as front line participants in this process, to put partisan considerations aside and serve as advocates for enfranchisement.  Critical to your role is the fair presentation and evaluation of the costs and benefits associated with any proposed change in election administration.  We ask that you be vigilant in protecting against fraud but equally vigilant in protecting the franchise for all our citizens.  History has taught us that our democracy has suffered far more from elected officials who chose to deny some of our citizens the opportunity to vote than from any other cause.  There is no greater threat to our democracy than a diminished belief that the rules are fair and fairly administered. 

Whether it is an elderly woman unable to locate her birth certificate for purposes of establishing her U.S. citizenship on election day or a college student whose school-issued identification is not among the IDs deemed acceptable for voting or a disabled veteran whose local polling place has not yet been made accessible, public officials on all levels of government should be striving to facilitate their right to vote, not make it more difficult.

We stand willing and ready to work in a bipartisan manner with our Republican counterparts in the U.S. Congress, as well as with state and local officials across the country, to guarantee to every citizen the right to vote and the certainty that every citizen’s vote will be counted.

 

Sincerely,

 

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Contact:            Allison Abney;  (202) 225-2665;  Allison.abney@mail.house.gov