The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote this week on a Draconian attack on our right to register and vote.
HR 1461 "reforms" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It includes a section called the Affordable Housing Fund, a very creative measure that gives 5 percent of the profits from these companies in grants to nonprofit and other organizations for the purpose of building or preserving affordable housing. This proposal has bipartisan support, and thousands of community groups have rallied to support it.
Right-wing conservatives have been trying to kill the Affordable Housing Fund since it was proposed. They attached a provision to HR 1461 prohibiting organizations that conduct nonpartisan voter registration drives from receiving any of the Fund's grants.
The bill moves to the House floor for debate on Wednesday (10/26). Amendments will be considered by the Rules Committee starting 4 pm Tuesday.
Contact your Representative TODAY and demand that they oppose this assault on our right to register and vote.
The provision in HR 1461 restricting voter registration was proposed by the Republican Study Committee, an ultra-conservative group of House members. ("Key Democrat calls GSE provision unacceptable," Washington Post, October 19, 2005)
The provision would even cover organizations that helped to register voters during the past year, plus groups that affiliate with organizations that do voter registration. Worse, the proposal extends beyond a simple ban on using Affordable Housing Fund money for voter registration. It bars organizations from using their own funds for voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities.
In other words, if a non-profit community group wants to participate in the Affordable Housing Fund, it cannot get involved in voter registration, even transport voters to the polls. Many housing organizations help residents update their voter registration when they move in. Housing management offices often have registration materials available as a service they provide to their residents.
We should go out of our way to encourage and welcome new voters, especially the poor, elderly and people with disabilities, those who benefit from affordable housing. It's an outrage that some of our leaders would punish nonpartisan nonprofits that register voters, instead of applauding this important work.
Rev. Willie Gable, Executive Vice President of the National Baptist Convention, has called this provision the "Non-Voting Rights Act of 2005." ("Housing Bill Contains A Catch," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, October 21, 2005).
Gable is among leaders of 62 faith-based, housing and other organizations who sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) last week urging him to remove the voter registration restrictions before this bill comes to the floor.
You can take action today against this assault on our right to register and vote. Contact your Representative, asking them to oppose this provision. Just follow the below directions.
1. To voice your concerns on this issue via phone, you can call the Capitol Operator toll free at 1-866-864-6483 and ask to be connected with your Representative.
2. Below is a sample form letter. Copy (Ctrl+C) this text into your clipboard.
3. Click here to open a form to send e-mail to your US Representative:http://www.house.gov/writerep/
4. Paste (Crtl+V) the sample text into the "your message" field on the form.
5. Include your name and address in the requested fields on the form.
SAMPLE FORM LETTER:
Dear Representative ___,
I support the establishment of the Affordable Housing Fund in the GSE legislation, but language that will restrict an organization's right to engage in voter registration/education may be included in H.R. 1461 when it goes to the floor for a vote.
I oppose any language that restricts voter registration and freedom of affiliation by non-profit and public organizations when using their own funds. This language will prevent housing organizations who provide affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities and low income persons with onsite non-partisan voter registration/education services and the opportunity to engage in the public process. As we are fighting for the opportunity for the citizens in Iraq to participate in a democratic society including the right to vote in their country, our government should not be preventing its own citizens from fully engaging in its own democracy.
I urge you as my Representative to tell House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to reject these restrictions in the managers amendment and bring the bill to the floor for a vote without this language. If H.R. 1461 is brought to the floor with these restrictions on voter registration intact, please vote no on the bill. You must preserve our right to fully participate in our democracy.
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