The rights and freedoms of citizens need to be protected. When the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and equal opportunity are unfairly denied to a person or a group of people, it is the role of the federal government to step in and fulfill the promise of America.
We must continue to work on creating a welcoming community and country for all while ensuring everyone has the opportunity to succeed; discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated. Across the United States we have seen increasing acts of hate against people of different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations. This is unacceptable. While individuals have the right to express their thoughts and beliefs, bigotry and hate are deplorable and we must be clear that it will not be tolerated. I have worked to oppose discrimination on multiple fronts while also supporting policies that seek to address some of the effects of institutionalized racism and inequality.
- Disavowing Hate and Violence– I have called for President Trump to fire any White House staff that have condoned white supremacy and am an original cosponsor of a resolution condemning the President’s refusal to denounce white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups. Subsequently, a number of these individuals have left the Administration. There is no place for such individuals in public office and certainly not in the White House.
- Defending Against Discrimination – I strongly reject the idea that having transgender individuals in our military in some way interfere with the morale or combat readiness of our Armed Forces. I fought strongly against an amendment offered to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that would have banned the Pentagon from providing funding to service members for medical treatment related to gender transition. This amendment was narrowly defeated on the House floor.
- Condemning Violence – I sent a letter to President Trump asking that he create an interagency task force to combat hate-based violence. Our government agencies should be working together to share ideas and best practices for teaching tolerance in our schools; promoting trust between police officers and the communities they serve; and strengthening faith-based community service projects that cut across religious, racial, and political lines.
- Ending Inequality – As a proud cosponsor of the Equality Act, I support amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.
Since its passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) has served as a benchmark to ensure all Americans’ voices are heard at the ballot box. But on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section Four of the VRA, a provision that protects voting rights in nine states that historically have had discriminatory voting practices. The Supreme Court found that Section Four had an outdated formula that placed undue and outdated federal burden on the nine states.
I was very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling. By striking Section Four, the Supreme Court limited the federal government’s ability to implement Section Five, consequently rendering this section of the VRA powerless and threatening the right to vote for many Americans. Any state can now implement Voter ID laws and redraw district lines to dilute the voices of large populations of mainly racial and ethnic minorities without federal oversight. In the 2012 election, low income voters and people of color, mainly African American and Latino voters, waited in line to vote twice as long as white voters. Additionally, many local and state laws and policies were put into effect subjecting low-income Americans, especially those of color, to undue electoral burden.
Since first coming to Congress, I have been a strong advocate for voting rights, and remain committed to doing all I can to ensure that no voter experiences discrimination. We need elections where the issues are what matter and campaigns compete on the quality of their ideas. I have taken numerous efforts to protect and expand upon voting rights at the federal level.
- Empowering All to Vote and Supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Original cosponsor of Rep. John Lewis’ Voter Empowerment Act of 2017, which requires each state to allow online voter registration, in addition to providing grants and other incentives to encourage states to better promote voter registration. The bill also prevents tactics like voter caging, and looks at the ways ballots and registrations are verified. I have also cosponsored the Voting Access Act of 2017, which amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish a set of national standards for the location of polling places during elections to federal office, to ensure that all communities have sufficient access. I am also a cosponsor on the Automatic Voter Registration Act, which requires that Departments of Motor Vehicle (DMV) around the country automatically register those eligible to vote when they use a DMV’s services unless the person opts out.
- Increasing Access to the Ballot Box for All: I recognize that holding elections on a weekday can make it difficult for working men and women to take time off to exercise their constitutional right. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Weekend Voting Act. This bill would change the date of Federal Elections from the first Tuesday, to the first weekend of the month of November.
- Ensuring Voting Rights for Native Communities: Cosponsor of Rep. Terri Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act which increases access to new voting places on tribal lands, while allowing federal courts to continue protecting voting rights of diverse communities in the face of new and restrictive voting legislation passed by states.
- Offering Alternatives to Voter ID Laws: Cosponsor of the America Votes Act of 2017. Introduced by Congressman Larsen, this bill would allow voters to present a sworn written statement, signed under penalty of perjury, as valid identification to vote in federal elections.
- Combatting Voter Suppression: Apart from signing legislation, I have sought to avoid attempts at voter suppression from the Administration. In January 2017, I cosigned a letter to Vice President Pence, asking that he focus the Administration’s voter fraud panel on voter suppression instead.
- Securing Future Elections: Recognizing the importance of a secure and modern voting system, I have cosponsored the Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2017. I also cosponsored the Restoring Confidence in America’s Elections Act, which directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to designate our election infrastructure as critical national infrastructure.
- Supporting Reforms to Campaign Finance: I support efforts to reform the financing of campaigns and reduce the amount of undisclosed funds that pour into candidate PACs.
- I am a cosponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill to clearly identify what an independent expenditure is in a campaign in order to help the Federal Election Commission (FEC) better oversee campaign funding. It also increases the disclosure requirements for corporations, labor unions, and other entities.
- I also support the Government By the People Act of 2017, legislation to create a pilot program which would match small dollar donations to federal candidates. This legislation would also prohibit candidates who opt in to the program from establishing or maintaining a PAC. I recognize the destabilizing effect that the Citizens United Supreme Court case has had on the transparency of our elections.
- I support H.J.Res 48, a Constitutional amendment which clarifies that the rights of the Constitution apply only to natural born persons and not corporations, limited liability corporations, and other entities created through state, Federal, or international law. This amendment also grants states and the federal government the right to regulate campaign finance while mandating disclosure of donations to candidates.
Fair elections and transparent voting practices will strengthen our nation for generations to come. I will continue to support our election system and fight to protect every voter.
For more information on this issue, sign up to receive Congressman Smith’s email updates.
More on More on Civil & Constitutional Rights
|11/7/12||Smith Statement on Reforming Immigration Policy|
|10/3/12||Smith Statement on the Pennsylvania Voter ID Ruling|
|9/20/12||Smith Statement on the Anniversary of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal|
|8/16/12||Smith Statement on Jason Puracal Appeal Hearing|
|5/2/12||Congressman Smith Celebrates Jewish American Heritage Month|
|3/22/12||Smith Applauds Department of Interior Efforts to Preserve World War II Japanese American Internment Sites|