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Laws Protecting Americans' Right to Vote

Four Laws with One Goal

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I Voted!

Exercise Your Right. Vote

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Updated August 22, 2013
No American who is qualified to vote should ever be denied the right and opportunity to do so. That seems so simple. So basic. How can "government by the people" work if certain groups of "the people" are not allowed to vote? Unfortunately, in our nation's history, some people have been, either intentionally or unintentionally, denied their right to vote. Today, four federal laws, all enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, work in concert to ensure that all Americans are allowed to register to vote and enjoy an equal opportunity to cast a ballot on election day.

Preventing Racial Discrimination in Voting
For many years some states enforced laws clearly intended to prevent minority citizens from voting. Laws requiring voters to pass reading or "intelligence" tests, or pay a poll-tax denied the right to vote -- the most basic right in our form of democracy -- to untold thousands of citizens until the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Also See: How to Report Voter Rights Violations

The Voting Rights Act protects every American against racial discrimination in voting. It also ensures the right to vote to people for whom English is a second language. The Voting Rights Act applies to elections for any political office or ballot issue held anywhere in the nation. Most recently, the federal courts have used the Voting Rights Act to end practices amounting to racial discrimination in the way some states elected their legislative bodies, and chose their election judges and other polling place officials.

Voter Registration Made Easy
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also called the "Motor Voter" law, requires all states to offer voter registration and assistance at all offices where people apply for driver's licenses, public benefits or other government services. The law also prohibits the states from removing voters from the registration rolls simply because they have not voted. The states are also required to ensure the timeliness of their voter registration rolls by regularly removing voters who have died or moved.

Our Soldiers' Right to Vote
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 requires the states to ensure that all members of the U.S. armed forces who are stationed away from home, and citizens who are living overseas, can register and vote absentee in federal elections.

Equal Access to the Polls
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires the states to ensure that voting systems, including voting machines and ballots, and polling places are accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, the law require that assistance at the polling place is available to people with limited English skills. As of Jan. 1, 2006, every voting precinct in the nation is required to have at least one voting machine available and accessible to persons with disabilities. Equal access is defined as providing persons with disabilities the same opportunity for participation in voting, including privacy, independence and assistance, afforded other voters. To help in evaluating a precinct's compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the Justice Department provides this handy checklist for polling places.

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