Virginia politics, policy and entertainment from the Greater Richmond-Washington Metro Area perspective.

Gerry Connolly Proposes Election Reforms

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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.

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15 Responses to “Gerry Connolly Proposes Election Reforms”

  1. Ken Reynolds

    What about right wingers who load the ballot with meaningless constitutional amendments liike they did this time? Jim, how long did it take your voters to muddle thru the crap!! A junior clerk could decide about moving dates for the veto session….and the eminent domain amendment can be overridden by the SC………..why couldnt that be left in the statutes? The US Constitution has 27 amendments….we have 110!!!

    • Riley

      Ken,

      The veto session is set by the Virginia Constitution, so the only way to make the change is through constitutional amendment. That was not a left or right amendment, simply a procedural one. The eminent domain one cannot be overridden by the VA S. Ct. as unconstitutional. That’s the entire point of enshrining it in the state constitution.

    • Peregry

      And even if you mean the Federal Supreme Court…

      They actually can’t.

      It’s an area of State Law, the only time the Federal Constitution can override a State Constitution measure is where they directly conflict by the State Constitution infringing on a Right AND the Supreme Court has decided that said Right is applicable to the States via the 14th Amendment (the technical term for this is Incorporation).

      In other other matters, State Constitutions and State Supreme Courts have final say on the matter.

      Further, remember what we’re dealing with: the concept of Eminent Domain. The Federal Constitution does not grant power of Eminent Domain, rather it assumes that governments have that as a power. Instead, it limits the power of Eminent Domain, by requiring “just compensation” for property taken using this power. In other words, the Federal Constitution puts a bare minimum limit on the power of Eminent Domain. There is nothing in the Federal Constitution that says that States cannot further limit a power that they themselves have inherently. It would take some truly convoluted legal logic to claim that a State, which has power inherent from being a State, cannot limit its own power.

  2. Chris

    One reform nobody talks about is making Election Day a federal holiday, like Christmas and Thanksgiving and the 4th of July.

    • Lovettsville Lady

      Who has to pay the employees? That might be a rather large burden for many businesses. Who would run the businesses for that day? Or would they all close and lose a day of income? Or would the taxpayers be expected to pay? Many business can close on Christmas and Thanksgiving because people aren’t out shopping or whatever on those days. But that’s not true for election day.

  3. Howard Roark

    I agree with Riley about moving election day to Saturday. I could support that. LL made some good points also. What many people don’t figure, however, is that making election day Tuesday a national holiday will reduce voter turnout. People will honor it about as much as they do Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and use the election day holiday as a means of tacking on a day or two of leave time and taking a long weekend off.

  4. Ken

    I agree .move it to Saturday….and my point is Jim, that the Constitution is loaded up with nonsense and needs to be re-written in its entirety….in part to get rid of these anachronisms that ssy we must do something (dumb) because it is already enshrined in the constitution……..like meeting dates!!

    • Riley

      Actually, Congress sets the jurisdiction for all federal courts, including the Supreme Court. They can actually legislate that certain things are not subject to judicial review or otherwise limit what may be reviewed.

    • Lovettsville Lady

      Really? Then why have three branches of government if only the Supreme Court matters?

  5. Ken Reynolds

    My point LL is that the S.C. can opine on anything it chooses. Jim said i was in error and rather than counter with my thought, i accepted his position since he is an atty and has worked closer than i in these matters. Although i have takn a case to the SC via Solicitor General’s Office, i do not claim to be an authority even though i still think the SC can take whatever it wants to take…….

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