Citing widespread reports of hours-long waits and blocks-long lines at polling places around the country during Election Day, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) today announced that he will introduce new legislation intended to shorten wait times at polling stations and enhance the ability of all citizens who want to vote to cast their ballots.
Miller's bill would require early voting in all states for federal elections, for a minimum of 15 days prior to Election Day. Today, 15 states do not have any form of early voting and for states with early voting the number of days varies from state to state and in some states, like Florida, the number of days was shortened in this last election. In addition, Miller's bill would also require states to ensure that all voting precincts have adequate resources to ensure that no voter must wait in line for more than one hour to vote.
The Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act would reduce wait times at the polls, enhance all voters' opportunity to cast their ballots, and ensure that even the busiest working families can exercise their sacred constitutional right.
"The right to vote is among our nation's most sacred rights, surely we can do a better job of ensuring that voters do not have to choose between meeting their daily responsibilities to their families or employers and exercising this solemn responsibility," said Miller. "There are a number of well-documented impediments to voting that must be corrected. My bill is in no way intended to solve all of our voting problems but it does offer two simple and clear-cut solutions that experts agree will make voting easier and help to reduce inexcusably long wait times for people casting their ballots in person."
"Americans shouldn't have to wait for hours and hours to cast a ballot -- and the fact that they had to do so in the 2012 election is absolutely unacceptable," Miller added. "Voting is one of the most fundamental rights in our democracy and we must ensure that that right is protected. What we're proposing here is a very simple solution. We're saying give voters in every state the opportunity to vote early so that they won't be left out on account of a last minute illness, a change in work schedules, or unavoidable emergencies, and make sure that there are enough resources on Election Day so that voters casting their ballots in person are not forced to choose between waiting hours to vote or not voting at all."
The proposed legislation:
* Requires all states to provide for a minimum of 15 days of early voting in federal elections.
* Requires states to ensure that each voting precinct has sufficient poll workers, voting machines and other resources to ensure that voting lines do not exceed one hour, whether on Election Day or during periods of early voting.
* Requires states to have contingency plans in place to resolve situations in which long lines nevertheless develop.
This year, in early voting days and on Election Day itself, media reports from a number of states indicated that it took some voters several hours to make it through the line to vote. The Associated Press reported, for example, that "[h]undreds of voters stood in line to cast ballots for well over four hours past the 7 p.m. closing times in Miami-Dade County, Fla., even after President Barack Obama was projected Tuesday night as winning re-election."
A number of leading civil-rights organizations have called for improved access to early voting and more efficient processes on Election Day, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights, and the ACLU.