Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) this week is unveiling his next step in the battle over voting rights in the form of a pop-up Web application that informs people where to vote and how to register. Hoyer and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to colleagues dated Monday to introduce the new application and encourage members to use it, specifically recommending sharing it through social media. The letter urges that it is the “responsibility” of elected leaders to help inform constituents about the democratic process. “In the last year, we have witnessed a nationwide assault on American citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote,” they wrote. “Aside from the unnecessary, expensive, and ineffective new Voter ID laws, we have also seen targeted purges of eligible, registered voters from state rolls. Little has been done to educate the public about these actions. As a result, there are thousands of eligible voters at risk of being turned away from the polls while attempting to make choices about their federal representation.”
The new app marks a concerted attempt by Democrats to counteract what they see as the negative push at state level by Republicans to implement voter ID laws — for instance, in Texas and Wisconsin — and purge voting rolls, as in Florida. The Justice Department has acted to blocked many of those attempts on the grounds they violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, legislation that sought to end racially discriminatory voting practices, but advocates such as Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott say the DOJ is “stonewalling” state attempts to protect voting rights for legal voters by weeding out illegal ones. Hoyer and Brady have advocated for the Voter Empowerment Act to modernize and reform the voting process.