On Tuesday June 9th, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01) introduced a bill into the U.S. House to automatically register eligible citizens to vote in federal elections when they provide information to a state’s motor vehicle authority. H.R. 2694, introduced by Cicilline, with 41 Democratic co-sponsors, would require motor vehicle departments to forward identifying information to elections officials for the purpose of registering individuals to vote.
Voters would be notified by election officials that they will be registered after 21 days unless they desire not to be registered, in which case they can opt out by notifying those same election officials. Cicilline proposed the idea, arguing that current law has it backwards by putting the burden on the voter to initiate the registration process. Instead his proposal would reverse the presumption, by assuming a citizen should be registered unless the person explicitly denies that he or she wants to be registered.
The House Democrats’ proposal comes just five days after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blasted Republicans for “systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of citizens from voting“ during a speech in Houston, Texas. In that speech, Clinton called for voting reforms to make casting ballots easier, including automatic voter registration.
In addition to Cicilline, other notable Democratic sponsors of H.R. 2694 include DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL-23), former DCCC Chairs Steve Israel (NY-03) and Chris Van Hollen (MD-08), and Civil Rights pioneer John R. Lewis (GA-05).
The bill has little chance to pass through the Republican dominated House. However, the proposal does highlight the opposite directions the two major parties are taking towards the right to vote. Republicans are passing restrictive laws in state after state to make it more difficult for Americans to vote. By contrast, the Democrats are doing their best to make voting as easy and convenient as possible for American citizens.
Democrats are trying to encourage Americans to exercise their right to vote, whereas Republicans are working feverishly to pass restrictions on voting. Based on the behavior of the two major parties, it isn’t hard to figure out which one feels its ideas will appeal to a broad cross-section of voters and which one needs to suppress the vote in order to win.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.