Expand voter participation, not myths about voter fraud
© Greg Nash

In our country, the right to vote is sacred. Every American citizen has the right to make his or her voice heard at the ballot box and elect public officials who will stand up for the issues important to them.

But for several years now, self-serving politicians in Washington, as well as states across our country, have tried to take this right away from working men and women, minorities, and young people by making it more difficult or even impossible for them to vote.

Across the country, we have seen a wave of restrictive laws that do nothing to make our elections more secure, but have managed to disenfranchise millions of American citizens. Restrictions on early voting and same-day registration, as well as overly burdensome Voter ID requirements, have made it harder than ever for working people to make their voices heard. Instead, corporate special interests have been empowered, allowing them to rig the economy for their own benefit.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE attempted to build on these efforts since the day he assumed office. He claimed, without evidence, that millions of fraudulent ballots were cast for his opponent. He appointed an Attorney General with a long history of opposing voting rights. And he established a phony commission, under the guise of voter integrity, to advance new restrictions on the right of working people to vote.

Last week, the president was forced to dissolve this bogus commission, which is an important step forward. But there is much more work left to be done in order to ensure that every American has an equal opportunity to participate in our elections.

Rather than trying to make it more difficult to participate in our democracy, we should be working together to expand voter participation. That means ending Voter ID provisions that disenfranchise eligible citizens, putting an end to partisan gerrymandering, and offering working people – who can’t afford to take time off from their job on a Tuesday in November – more opportunities to vote early or by mail.

And that’s why, last year, I re-introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act to significantly expand ballot access for eligible voters. Instead of requiring every American who wants to vote to register, this bill ensures that all Americans are registered to vote as soon as they register for a driver’s license, or apply for any other services through their state’s Division of Motor Vehicles.

Many states, including my home state of Rhode Island, have already enacted similar legislation for their citizens. Passing this bill at the federal level will make it easier for tens of millions of Americans to participate in our democracy, and make it harder for self-serving politicians to restrict the right to vote.

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So far, 135 of my colleagues in the House have signed on to co-sponsor this bill, though not a single one of them is a Republican.

I can’t think of a single valid reason for a politician in Washington, no matter his or her party, to avoid empowering their own constituents.

More than anything, working people want their government to work for them. They want to make sure that Congress hears their voices, and not just the voices of corporate special interests that have run this town for decades.

It’s time that Washington start serving the American people again. And that needs to start with ensuring that every eligible American can participate in our democracy.

Cicilline represents Rhode Island’s 1st District.