Delaware Senator's effort to speed voting gains traction
November 16, 2012By Mark Eichmann
Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D) is sponsoring a bill designed to eliminate or dramatically reduce long lines at polling places in time for the next election.
While few if any problems with lines were reported in Coons' home state of Delaware, hundreds of voters around the country dealt with hours-long lines at the polls on Election Day. President Obama even addressed the long waits during his victory speech in Chicago, "I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time," Obama said. "By the way, we have to fix that."
The Fast Voting Act of 2012 creates a federal program to reward states based on their ability to improve access to the polls in nine specific ways. "The irregularities and delays that plagued this year's elections cannot be allowed to happen again," said Coons. "Long lines are a form of voter disenfranchisement, a polling place running out of ballots is a form of voter suppression, and making it harder for citizens to vote is a violation of voters' civil rights."
State would be awarded grants based on improvements in the nine following areas:
- Providing flexible registration opportunities, including same-day registration
- Providing early voting, at a minimum of 9 of the 10 calendar days preceding an election
- Providing absentee voting, including no-excuse absentee voting
- Providing assistance to voters who do not speak English as a primary language
- Providing assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairments
- Providing effective access to voting for members of the armed services
- Providing formal training of election officials, including state and county administrators and volunteers
- Auditing and reducing waiting times at polling stations
- Creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a natural or other disaster.
Senator Coons introduced the bill in the Senate on Thursday, and just hours later, the bill was also introduced in the U.S. House. "I look forward to working with more of my colleagues in the coming weeks and months to ensure that we do not forget what happened last week, and do not miss the opportunity to prevent it from happening again," Coons said.