FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 16, 2012
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-4216
Senator Coons’ FAST Voting Act is introduced in House; picks up Senate cosponsors
Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jim Langevin introduce companion bill in House of Representatives; Senators Mark Warner and Sheldon Whitehouse join Senate bill
WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) and Jim Langevin (D-RI-02) introduced the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012 in the House of Representatives Thursday evening, just hours after U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the bill in the Senate with Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who have joined the bill as cosponsors. The FAST Voting Act (S.3635 and H.R.6590) would create acompetitive grant program in the model of Race to the Top, encouraging states to aggressively pursue election reform. The states that demonstrate the most comprehensive and promising reform plans will earn a greater portion of the grant funding.
"The irregularities and delays that plagued this year’s elections cannot be allowed to happen again,” Senator 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. The FAST Voting Act is a creative way to jumpstart states’ election reform efforts and to ensure that what happened last week doesn’t happen again. I’m grateful to Senators Warner and Whitehouse for joining me in introducing this bill, and to Representatives Connolly and Langevin for introducing companion legislation in the House. Ilook 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."
The legislation authorizes a federal program that would award grants based on how well applicant states are able to improve access to the polls in at least nine specified ways, including:
- 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 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.
The bills were introduced just over a week after an Election Day that saw extraordinarily long lines and a myriad of voting issues in more than a dozen states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Virginia, South Carolina, Montana, Tennessee, Hawaii, Arizona, Rhode Island and more.
Senator Coons entered a statement on the bill into the Congressional Record on Thursday. Click here to read it: http://1.usa.gov/ZD26FY
Senator Warner spoke about the FAIR Voting Act on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. Click here to watch his remarks: http://1.usa.gov/S0OPSV
Click here to download the full text of the bill: http://1.usa.gov/ZSl4aE