U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the author of the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act, today praised President Obama's announcement of a bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration to consider ways to shorten lines at the polls and improve the efficiency of our nation's elections.
"Making it harder for citizens to vote is a violation of their civil rights," Senator Coons said. "The 2012 elections were a wakeup call. All over the country, in red states and blue states, Americans saw their fundamental right to vote eroded by exceptionally long lines, confusing rules and voting machine malfunctions. President Obama today is following through on his promise to confront this widespread voter disenfranchisement by convening a bipartisan commission to develop recommendations for preventing it from ever happening again."
"This Commission has the potential to make a real difference in one of the truly central components of our democracy," Senator Coons continued. "The Commission's recommendations to improve election administration will need to be implemented, though, and with state and local governments under increasing financial pressure, Washington will have to put forward the seed money by passing legislation to help states implement critical reforms. The FAST Voting Act would incentivize states to strategically assess the administration of their elections and develop a plan for reform."
The FAST Voting Act would create a competitive grant program to encourage states to aggressively pursue election reform. The states that demonstrate the most comprehensive and promising reform plans would earn a greater portion of the grant funding. Applicant states are encouraged 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 bill, which is cosponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), 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.