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Public Statements

Letter to Secretary Holder

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday asking the Justice Department to help ensure that all Americans can vote in federal elections without facing hours-long delays at their polling places.

Senator Boxer wrote, "As you know, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects against discrimination at the polls. It is my belief that long lines at the polls, no matter the reason, are tantamount to denying the fundamental right to vote."

The letter is in response to the problems that occurred in the November election, where voters in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and other states waited in line for up to seven hours to cast ballots. Some voters were still in line in the early hours of Wednesday morning, long after the polls had closed. During his election night speech, President Obama promised that fixing the problems that led to these delays would be a top priority.

On Wednesday, Senator Boxer introduced legislation to deal directly with the problem of dysfunction at polling places around the country. The LINE Act (or the Lines Interfere with National Elections Act) would require the Attorney General, in consultation with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to issue new national standards by January 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers, and other election resources that are necessary to conduct federal elections on Election Day and during early voting periods.

The bill explicitly states that the goal of minimum standards is to prevent a waiting time of more than one hour at any polling place. Boxer's bill also would require states where voters endured long lines to implement remedial plans to fix the problems before the next federal election.

While Senator Boxer works with her colleagues to get the new legislation passed by Congress, she urged the Justice Department to take immediate steps to address the long lines experienced around the country. She wrote, "I will be working tirelessly to enact the LINE Act into law, but in the meantime I urge you to ensure that no citizen, regardless of ethnicity or income level, is effectively denied the right to vote by unreasonable and unnecessary lines."

The text of the letter follows:

December 5, 2012

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

On November 6th the nation came together as it does every four years to elect the next President of the United States. Unfortunately, far too many of our fellow citizens had to overcome significant obstacles to cast their ballots.

Voters in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and other states waited in line to vote for as many as seven hours. Some voters were still in line to cast votes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, hours after polls had closed. Reports of malfunctioning electronic poll books and electronic voting machines were rampant. Many polling places lacked the staff and voting resources to deal with the volume of voters, and in the worst cases, precincts had no paper ballots to give to voters when machines broke down.

The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy; but in making our citizens wait for hours in line, and forcing them to choose between casting their ballot or caring for a sick child, or earning a paycheck to feed their families, the government is infringing on their fundamental right to participate in our democracy.

As President Obama noted when he spoke to the American people on Election Day, we must do something about the long lines and other problems at polling places.

Today I introduced the Lines Interfere with National Elections (LINE) Act - legislation designed to help address long voting lines. My bill would require the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Election Assistance Commission, to issue new national standards to prevent a waiting time of more than one hour at any polling place, and would also require states where voters endured long lines to implement remedial plans to fix the problems before the next federal election.

I know you share my deep concern regarding access to the polls in our country. I was very pleased that the Department of Justice dispatched an unprecedented number of federal election monitors on Election Day -- nearly 800 Department staff and Office of Personnel Management observers were sent to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states.

But we need to work together across the federal government to tackle the issue of long lines at the polls -- and we need to do it now.

As you know, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects against discrimination at the polls. It is my belief that long lines at the polls, no matter the reason, are tantamount to denying the fundamental right to vote.

I will be working tirelessly to enact the LINE Act into law, but in the meantime I urge you to ensure that no citizen, regardless of ethnicity or income level, is effectively denied the right to vote by unreasonable and unnecessary lines.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator


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