WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today reintroduced legislation to help states make substantial improvements in administration of their elections to make voting faster and more accessible to all voters.  The Louis L. Redding Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2016 would create a competitive grant program in the model of Race to the Top, encouraging states to aggressively pursue election reforms.  The states that demonstrate the most comprehensive and promising reform plans will earn a greater portion of the grant funding.

In the 2016 election, long lines and voting-machine problems were reported in well over a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Utah, Colorado, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, Hawaii, Arizona, Rhode Island, and more.  There were also reports of confusion over new voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin, improper refusals of voter registrations in West Virginia, delayed absentee ballots in Pennsylvania and Alabama, and an absence of required bilingual support in Arizona and Florida.

“Too many voters waited far too long to cast their ballots in this last election,” said Senator 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.  This is the United States of America and the right to vote is in our DNA: we have to do better.  The FAST Voting Act is a creative way to jumpstart states’ election reform efforts and ensure that every American can exercise their right to vote in the next election.” 

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. But during this last election, reports indicated that computer problems, long lines, poorly trained poll workers, and outdated equipment all made it harder for voters in some places to cast their ballots,” said Senator Warner. “The FAST Voting Act addresses these challenges by encouraging and helping states to make voting faster and more accessible through commonsense reforms like reducing long waiting times, expanding early voting opportunities, and eliminating other obstacles that prevent people from exercising their franchise.”

“Long lines, confusion, and mishaps at the polls aren’t simply an inconvenience – impediments to voting are a violation of Americans’ most basic civil right,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Instead of making it harder to vote, we should be making it easier. This bill gives states the resources and opportunity to implement more innovative ways to ensure that all Americans – no matter who they are or where they live – have access to a smooth, fair, and speedy voting process next election day.”

“It is disheartening that in recent years, many Republican state legislatures around the country have been focused on passing discriminatory laws that make it more difficult to cast a ballot,” said Senator Durbin. “I’m proud to take a stand against this injustice and introduce legislation that would encourage states to make it easier for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote.” 

“Our right to vote and have our voices heard on Election Day is sacred, yet because of institutional barriers to the ballot, from outdated voting machines to confusing voter ID and registration laws, many Americans still had severe difficulty casting their ballots in the last election,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The FAST Voting Act would give Americans easier access to the polls and a more efficient registration process, and would go a long way toward eliminating voter suppression. Every American should have their voices heard on Election Day, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.”

The program tasks applicant states with creating a comprehensive and coherent plan to improve their election processes by:

  • 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 bill is named for Louis L. Redding, a prominent civil rights advocate who became the first African American to be admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1929.  He challenged school segregation in court and was part of the legal team that challenged Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.