The PJ Tatler

Dems Respond to Long Voting Lines with Bill to Make Voting More 'Flexible'

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) introduced a bill that would created a competitive grant program to reward states that “aggressively pursue election reform.”

Coons introduced the bill in response to the long lines and delays that greeted voters at the polls earlier this month. So far, though, his solutions haven’t attracted GOP sponsorship.

“The irregularities and delays that plagued this year’s elections cannot be allowed to happen again,” Coons said. “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.”

Introduced with Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012 authorizes a federal program to award grants to applicant states based on how well they improve access to the polls in at least nine specified ways: 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 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 impairment; 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; and creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a natural or other disaster.

The program also requires an “assessment of steps the state has taken to eliminate statutory, regulatory, procedural and other barriers to expedited voting and accessible voter registration.”

Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) introduced a companion version in the House on Thursday evening, just hours after Coons introduced his bill in the upper chamber.