Senator Calls For Federal Rules on Long Voting Lines

US Voting Line Turns Round Corners

Thanks to Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog for linking to the following post where Senator Barbara Boxer released a press release about ensuring short voting lines through federal legislation.  Take a look:

BOXER INTRODUCES BILL TO HELP VOTERS AVOID LONG LINES ON ELECTION DAY

The “LINE Act” Would Set National Standards and Require Action by States Where Voters Waited in Line for Hours

 Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced the LINE Act, election reform legislation designed to guarantee that all American voters can cast a ballot in federal elections without facing hours-long delays at their polling places.

Senator Boxer said, “It is unacceptable that many Americans had to wait in line for five, six or seven hours to cast their ballots.  The LINE Act will help ensure that every American has an equal chance to vote without enduring hours-long delays at their polling places.”

 Voters in FloridaVirginiaOhio and other states waited in line for up to seven hours to cast ballots. Some voters were still in line in the early hours of Wednesday morning, long after the polls had closed.  During his election night speech, President Obama promised that fixing the problems that led to these delays would be a top priority.

 The LINE Act (or the Lines Interfere with National Elections Act) would require the Attorney General, in consultation with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to issue new national standards by January 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers, and other election resources that are necessary to conduct Federal elections on Election Day and during early voting periods.  The bill explicitly states that the goal of minimum standards is to prevent a waiting time of more than one hour at any polling place.

Senator Boxer’s bill also would require states where voters endured long lines to implement remedial plans to fix the problems before the next federal election. Under the legislation, the Attorney General working with the EAC would identify states that had a substantial number of voters who waited more than 90 minutes to vote in the 2012 election. Those states would have to comply with a remedial plan to ensure voters would not face similar delays in the future.

In addition to the legislation, Senator Boxer sent a letter last month to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging them to address the long lines and Election Day dysfunction faced by voters across the country by recommending nominees to the Election Assistance Commission.

 

The following is from a post on Senator Barbara Boxer’s website:

Boxer Calls on GOP Leaders to Recommend Nominees to U.S. Election Assistance Commission  

Senator Says Unfilled Openings on the Commission Contributed to Election Day Dysfunction

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent a letter urging Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to address the Election Day dysfunction experienced by voters across the country by recommending nominees to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The Commission was established in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act, which was passed by large bipartisan majorities in the House (357-48) and Senate (92-2). But unfortunately, Republican leaders have failed to make recommendations for their two seats on the bipartisan commission for nearly a year, while Democratic leaders have recommended nominees.

In the letter, Senator Boxer wrote, “I hope that you will take immediate action to make these recommendations so that we can get the Election Assistance Commission working again, and let the American people know that the government is protecting their fundamental right to vote.”

The EAC, which currently has no commissioners and no executive director, has not held a public meeting since 2011. Although staff members have continued to perform the day-to-day functions, Boxer said the lack of Senate-confirmed leaders has undermined the Commission’s mission of helping ensure voter access to the polls and the integrity of the vote.

“I believe the dysfunction we witnessed may have been reduced had this Commission been fully staffed and operational,” Senator Boxer wrote.

The full text of the Senator’s letter is below:

November 19, 2012

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                                                     The Honorable John Boehner
Senate Minority Leader                                                                   Speaker of the House
S-230, United States Capitol                                                           H-232, United States Capitol
Washington, DC 20510                                                                   Washington, DC 20515

Dear Minority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner:

After our nation faced so many problems at the polls this Election Day, I ask that you make it a priority to recommend nominees to serve on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as required by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. I believe the dysfunction we witnessed may have been reduced had this Commission been fully staffed and operational.

As you know, far too many of our fellow citizens had to overcome significant obstacles to cast their ballots. Voters in states like Florida, Virginia, Ohio and others waited in line to vote for as many as seven hours. Some voters were still in line to cast votes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, hours after polls had closed. Reports of malfunctioning electronic poll books and electronic voting machines were rampant. Many polling places lacked the staff and voting resources to deal with the volume of voters, and in the worst cases, precincts had no paper ballots to give to voters when machines broke down.

The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy; but in making our citizens wait for hours in line, and forcing them to choose between casting their ballot or caring for a sick child, or earning a paycheck to feed their families, the government is infringing on their fundamental right to participate in our democracy.

One way we can help guarantee voter access to the polls is with a fully functioning Election Assistance Commission. The Commission is responsible for certifying voting machines and technology, and conducting voting system audits to monitor compliance with federal law. The Commission also works to help military and overseas citizens cast their votes, maintains a national voter registration form to ensure uniform voter registration practices, and serves as a national clearinghouse for information on election administration.

The EAC, which currently has no commissioners and no executive director, has not held a public meeting since 2011. Staff members have continued to perform the day-to-day functions of the EAC, but without Senate-confirmed leaders, the Commission can do nothing of importance.

Under the law, Senate and House leaders of both parties each make recommendations to the President, who then nominates commissioners, subject to Senate consent. While two Democratic EAC nominees are awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee, my understanding is that your offices have not recommended names for the two Republican positions in nearly a year.

I hope that you will take immediate action to make these recommendations so that we can get the Election Assistance Commission working again, and let the American people know that the government is protecting their fundamental right to vote.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

cc: Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, Charles E. Schumer, Senate Rules Committee Chairman; Lamar Alexander, Senate Rules Committee Ranking Member

Add Your Comments: