US Rep. Clyburn calls for sweeping election reforms

jself@thestate.comJanuary 29, 2013 

— South Carolina’s lone congressional Democrat on Monday endorsed sweeping changes in the way that voters register and cast ballots.

Called the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013, the U.S. House bill would change existing election laws that impede voting, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-Columbia, said at a news conference Monday.

Clyburn said lawmakers nationwide and civil rights advocates, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., helped develop the bill because they are concerned that laws creating new voting procedures, including South Carolina’s voter identification law, “are designed to reinstitute voter suppression.”

“They’re aimed very directly at voting patterns favored by minority voters,” Clyburn said, adding even the practice of holding Election Day on a Tuesday was designed to prevent “working people” from voting.

The voting bill would:

• Allow online voter registration and registration on Election Day.

• Require early voting.

• Expand opportunities for people with disabilities to cast ballots, including voting from home.

• Require electronic voting machines issue paper receipts to ensure a vote has been counted.

• Restore the vote to those convicted of a criminal offense after they finish their sentence.

• Require federally funded universities to offer voter registration to students.

• Create a national voter hotline for reporting voting problems.

Similar to an unsuccessful proposal in the U.S. House last year, the bill will face challenges, Clyburn said. But, he said, the bill could encourage states to change their voting procedures.

Clyburn also is the cosponsor of a bill that would prohibit voters from being required to wait in line for more than a hour to cast a ballot. Some Richland County voters stood in line for up to seven hours to vote in November.

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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