Two lawmakers have wasted no time in calling for the newly sworn-in Congress to extend early voting and reduce polling-place lines, after an election season that featured voting waits as long as six hours. Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn and Rep. George Miller (D-California) released a bill on Thursday that would mandate 15 days of early voting in each state and reduce wait times at polling places. The legislation is very similar to the SIMPLE Voting Act that Miller introduced in mid-November of last year. That bill died in committee. With the new Congress now in session, Miller and Clyburn have renewed what they say is a push to protect voter rights.
With Election Day almost three weeks behind us, Congress is preparing to return to Washington for a lame duck session which may or may not include consideration of two new election reform bills:
+ S. 3635, the “Fair,Accurate, Secure, and Timely Voting Act of 2012”, or FAST, sponsored by Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia; and
+ H.R. 6591, the “Streamlined and Improved Methods at Polling Locations and Early Voting
Act” or SIMPLE, introduced by Democrat George Miller of California and 74 co-sponsors.
There’s a lot to dig into in both of these bills, but a quick look reveals three very interesting issues.
While President Obama was delivering his victory speech in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 7, people were still standing in line in Florida to vote. Thousands had waited hours to vote in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, some in the cold, some giving up wages to do so. In a spontaneous aside — “by the way, we have to fix that” — the president acknowledged the unnecessary hardship of casting a vote in the United States and established a goal that he now has an obligation to address. The long lines can be shortened with commitments from Washington, as well as state and local governments, but they are just the most glaring symptom of a deeply broken democratic process. In too many states, it’s also needlessly difficult to register to vote. States controlled by Republicans continue to erect partisan impediments to participation. And the process for choosing a candidate remains bound to unlimited and often secret campaign donations that are bound to lead to corruption.
Efforts to improve election administration and address the long lines that greeted voters on Election Day shifted to Capitol Hill on Thursday as House and Senate lawmakers unveiled related bills. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced legislation that would establish a competitive-grant program within the Justice Department to provide states with incentives to improve their voting processes. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., quickly pledged to co-sponsor the bill, citing the “embarrassment” that long lines caused Virginia last week. “In Prince William County, folks waited for up to three hours. In Chesapeake, Va., folks waited up to four hours. It was remarkable that it was five days after the fact before we even knew the results in Florida,” Warner said on the Senate floor.
National: New Legislation Would Help Shorten Voting Lines, Strengthen People’s Ability to Vote | Daily Kos
Citing widespread reports of hours-long waits and blocks-long lines at polling places around the country during Election Day, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) today announced that he will introduce new legislation intended to shorten wait times at polling stations and enhance the ability of all citizens who want to vote to cast their ballots. Miller’s bill would require early voting in all states for federal elections, for a minimum of 15 days prior to Election Day. Today, 15 states do not have any form of early voting and for states with early voting the number of days varies from state to state and in some states, like Florida, the number of days was shortened in this last election. In addition, Miller’s bill would also require states to ensure that all voting precincts have adequate resources to ensure that no voter must wait in line for more than one hour to vote.