Chet Edwards and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993

This blog post was composed by graduate assistant Jillian Higgins, a master’s student in the History Department.

Photograph of Rep. Chet Edwards
Rep. Chet Edwards

With mid-term elections right around the corner, the Poage Library encourages you to exercise your right to vote!

One of the pioneers of voter protection during the 1990s was Texas’s Chet Edwards, member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Edwards was a proponent for the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and claimed the legislation would greatly benefit Americans who wished to participate in the electoral process.

Correspondence from Al Swift to Chet Edwards
Letter from Al Swift to Chet Edwards (Chet Edwards U.S. House papers, Box 54, Folder 34)

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 provided protection for voters and deterred voter fraud. It required each state to establish federal election voter registration procedures by: (1) application with a driver’s license, (2) mail, or (3) application in person at a designated federal, state, or nongovernmental office. It also eased the process when registering to vote, declaring that each state’s motor vehicle license application or renewal of said application would serve as a voter’s registration application unless the applicant failed to sign the voter registration application. This act authorized registration sites, requiring a State to designate voter registration agencies at: (1) all state offices that provide public assistance, (2) state or local government offices, (3) federal and nongovernmental offices, and (4) armed forces recruitment offices. The act also required a state to impose criminal penalties on any person who: (1) threatens or coerces a person registering to vote or (2) defrauds the state of an impartial election process. A letter written from Al Swift praised Edwards for supporting the NVRA of 1993 and alludes to the positive outcomes the act would produce for many Americans.

Overall, the NVRA of 1993 was intended to protect the rights of voters, making voter registration more accessible, and protecting our election processes. Obviously, these issues remain at the forefront of our current discussions on voter protections and security. This voting cycle, let us remember those who have gone before us and paved the way for us to exercise our position in democracy as we strive for a “more perfect union.” Whether it be mail-in ballots, walking to the polls, or absentee voting, let’s get out there and let our voices be heard!

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