Democrats in Congress propose sweeping election law reforms

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

On two occasion President Obama has highlighted the need for election reforms. “By the way, we have to fix that,” he said in his election-night speech on November 6, regarding the long lines at the polls in states like Florida. President Obama returned to this issue in his Second Inaugural Address on January 21, saying “our journey is not
complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the
right to vote.”

Now the question is whether the Obama administration and Congress can actually do something to fix the shameful way U.S. elections are run. Ari Berman at The Nation reports, Election Reform Should Be a Top Priority for the New Congress:

There are smart proposals in Congress to address the issue. The most comprehensive among them is the Voter Empowerment Act,
reintroduced today by Democratic leaders in the House, including civil
rights icon John Lewis, and Kirsten Gillibrand in Senate.

The bill would add 50 million eligible Americans to the voter rolls
by automatically registering consenting adults to vote at government
agencies, adopting Election Day voter registration, and allowing
citizens to register to vote and update their addresses online
. (As
Attorney General Eric Holder noted recently, 80 percent of the 75
million eligible citizens who didn’t vote in 2008 were not registered to vote.)
It would also guarantee fifteen days of early voting to ease long
lines, restore the voting rights of felons after they’ve served their
time
and ban deceptive ads aimed at suppressing voter turnout. “It’s got
almost everything in there that we think is important,” says Eric
Marshall of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The Voter Empowerment Act is supplemented by other worthwhile proposals in Congress. There is Senator Barbara Boxer’s LINE Act,
which mandates national standards for a minimum number of voting
machines and election workers in each precinct
, and Senator Chris
Coons’s FAST Act,
which gives grants to states that conduct elections efficiently,
modeled after Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative. Both Harry
Reid and Nancy Pelosi have designated election reform as a top priority
for the new Congress.

* * *

[S]upporters of election reform believe the administration is ready to
move on this issue as well. “They have stated this as a much bigger
priority than it was before,” adds Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Based on my conversations
with people in the administration, I’m convinced they are committed to
figuring out how to contribute to a solution.”

* * *

The public wants its elected representatives to address these problems. A post-election poll
found that 88 percent of 2012 voters support new national voting
standards. By nearly two to one, the public is more concerned about
“eligible voters being denied the opportunity to vote” rather than
“ineligible voters getting to vote.”

Any election reform deal will require Republican support, which so far hasn’t been forthcoming. [See previous post.]

* * *

“The Republican Party should be a party that says, ‘We want everybody
to vote,’ and make it easier for people to vote and give them a reason
to vote for the party, and not to find ways to keep them from voting at
all,” Colin Powell recently advised the GOP.

Supporting sensible election reform efforts would be a good place to start. But don't hold your breath, Mr. Secretary.

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