U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly has proposed a bill to address the issue of people waiting hours in line to vote on Election Day.
This bill authorizes a federal program to award grants based on how well states can improve access to the polls in at least nine specific 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 officials 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.
Let’s go through these items one by one.
1. Providing flexible registration opportunities, including same-day registration;
BAD IDEA – If you couldn’t be bothered to register to vote before Election Day, then you’re not taking your civic responsibility seriously. We’ve got “motor voter,” voter registration forms available at post offices, libraries and other public buildings. You can download voter registration forms from the Internet. There is no reasonable excuse that someone could not register before actually showing up at the polls to vote. If you think the lines were bad this time, how bad would they be if you have a bunch of people who had to first REGISTER on site and be verified as eligible? Not to mention the huge opportunity this would create for wholesale voter fraud (unless he agrees to voters having to dip their fingers in indelible purple ink like they did in Iraq so no one can vote twice — I’d love to hear the arguments against that.)
2. Providing early voting, at a minimum of 9 of the 10 calendar days preceding an election;
BAD IDEA – It is called Election DAY, not Election WEEK or Election MONTH. I don’t have a problem with people casting an absetee ballot (or even an in-person absentee ballot), but this move towards early voting is just plain silly as those casting such votes are doing so without the benefit of witnessing the entire election campaign unfold. People around the world wait for hours to cast their ballots out of a sense of pride on their countries’ election days. It used to be viewed in the U.S. that waiting to vote ON ELECTION DAY was one of the few communal events that we shared with our friends and neighbors. We’re losing that.
3. Providing absentee voting, including no-excuse absentee voting;
GOOD IDEA – As I stated above, I have no problem with this. Every eligible voter should be able to cast a ballot for the candidates of their choice.
4. Providing assistance to voters who do not speak English as a primary language;
BAD IDEA – What languages would states and counties be required to provide assistance with? It may surprise Mr. Connolly that in many Prince William County Schools students who are in the ESOL program are not Spanish speakers, but many are Arabic or from African nations. Once you do it for one group, you’d have to do it for all of them and there are currently just over 6,000 spoken languages in the world today. If people are in America and voting (meaning they must be citizens), then they should at least understand enough English to be able to cast a ballot. If they need help, they should ask a family member or friend to review with them a sample ballot before they head to the polls.
5. Providing assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairment;
GOOD IDEA – Once again, every eligible voter should be able to cast a ballot for the candidates of their choice — so long as the votes are actually cast for the candidates of that voter’s choice.
6. Providing effective access to voting for members of the armed services;
GOOD IDEA – For those men and women fighting to protect our liberties, we should do everything we can to ensure that they can exercise this most cherished liberty themselves. Reports that many service members did not receive the absentee ballots that they requested for the 2012 presidential election is very troubling.
7. Providing formal training of election officials, including State and county officials and volunteers;
GOOD IDEA – No matter where a voter casts his or her ballot in a state, it should be roughly the same experience. There should be consistency in the process that will give voters confidence in the results.
8. Auditing and reducing waiting times at polling stations;
GOOD IDEA – If we can reduce wait-times in supermarket check-out lines by auditing how many people are waiting and adjusting accordingly, there is no reason why we can’t apply such private sector lessons to speeding up things on Election Day for voters at the polls.
9. Creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a natural or other disaster.
GOOD IDEA – Hurricane Sandy showed us that this is a necessity. Just as contingency plans must be put in place for other activities, there should be ones in place for voting as well. I do not believe that should include moving the date of an election unless it is a cataclysm of epic proportions and even then that should only be done for elections at the state or local level. At the presidential level, the Electoral College is the bulwark against emergencies and other national disasters disproportionately impacting the outcome.
So, there you have it. In principle, Connolly’s bill has 6 areas where conservatives and liberals should be able to agree. Not a bad place to start from.