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Congressman Boyle Introduces Citizenship Empowerment Act to Provide Voter Registration Forms to New Citizens

June 30, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA-13) and House Democratic Chairman, Congressman Joe Crowley (NY-14) today introduced legislation to require that all newly sworn-in U.S. citizens be uniformly provided voter registration forms at naturalization ceremonies, making it easier for them to exercise their core right as a citizen: the right to vote.

Currently, only some state and local election officials provide such materials to newly sworn-in citizens.  Congressman Boyle’s “Citizenship Empowerment Act” (H.R. 3113) would require officials to provide voter registration forms in the citizenship packets provided to all newly sworn-in U.S. citizens, and allow election officials to set up informational tables outside naturalization ceremonies.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democratic system.  We should make it easier, not harder, for citizens to vote or register to vote whenever possible,” said Congressman Boyle.  “We should do all we can to provide all citizens a fair opportunity to participate in our democracy – and in fact encourage them to do so – regardless of the location they happen to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen.  The first step of a truly representative democracy is participation.  I am proud to introduce this legislation with Joe to cap off Immigrant Heritage Month and commemorate July Fourth.”

“We should do everything within our power to make it easier for Americans to vote, as that is the fundamental tool to ensuring a more perfect union,” said Chairman Crowley.  “Newly sworn-in Americans have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to our country, and they are often eager to make their voices heard.  Providing voter registration forms at naturalization ceremonies would go a long way into making that a reality.  I applaud Congressman Boyle for his leadership on this important issue and hope my colleagues will be inspired by the Independence Day Holiday to support this legislation.”  Crowley is the fourth-highest ranking member of House Democratic Leadership.
The legislation is endorsed by Common Cause and the National Partnership for New Americans.  “Many immigrants to the United States fought and died for the right to vote,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause. “Ensuring that new American citizens can fully participate in our democracy is a common sense reform, and Common Cause commends Representative Boyle for introducing the Citizenship Empowerment Act.”

Providing a new citizen with a voter registration form at a naturalization ceremony is currently allowed, and in fact conducted in some states, but it is not required by federal law.  This is an obvious disparity, wherein one new U.S. citizen can be sworn-in at one location and immediately given the opportunity to register to vote, while another may have to jump through multiple hoops to track down the necessary paperwork.  The idea for this legislation was first expressed to Congressman Boyle by local Philadelphia election official  Lisa Deeley, who received the suggestion at a townhall-style community meeting.

Congressman Boyle is the son of an Irish immigrant and has been an outspoken advocate for protecting and expanding voting rights, both in the Pennsylvania state legislature and the U.S. Congress.  Boyle is also the founder and co-chair of the Blue Collar Caucus, formed in the wake of the 2016 election to hold President Trump accountable for his promises to working people and reconnect the Democratic party to working class voters.