It Shouldn`t Be This Hard to Vote

Congressman Gerry Connolly
2012-12-27 16:34:43
If you are having trouble viewing this E-newsletter, please visit [connolly.congressnewsletter.net/mail/util.cfm for the Web Version. Congressman Gerry E. Connolly - Representing the 11th District of Virginia Dear Neighbor, In case you missed them, I want to share with you the�*Washington Post editorial [link 1]*�and the recent�*op-ed I penned with Senator Mark Warner [link 2]�*on improving and streamlining voting for all Americans. Voting is a sacred right we as Americans must be free to exercise. �The failures we witnessed on Election Day such as long lines, too few voting machines, and poorly-trained poll workers are unacceptable. We must have uniform standards in federal elections. The FAST Voting Act I introduced with Senator Warner is a first step to remedying this broken system. � Sincerely, [image = connolly.congressnewsletter.net/images/user_images/Connollysig.jpg] Gerald E. Connolly Member of Congress 11th District of Virginia � [image = www.washingtonpost.com/rw/sites/twpweb/img/logos/twp_logo_300.gif] � It Shouldn�t Be This Hard To Vote* By Mark Warner and Gerald E. Connolly, Published: December 7 � Americans headed to the polls in huge numbers on Election Day to exercise their most fundamental right. Unfortunately, what they encountered was not an efficient or effective voting system but a haphazard patchwork of procedures resulting in confusion, irregularities and outrageously long lines. In many places �including Virginia �voters were forced to stand in line for hours to simply cast a ballot. � This is not a Republican or Democratic problem; voters from both parties were affected. Nor is it an urban, suburban or rural problem. It is truly a national, bipartisan crisis and one, to quote President Obama, �we have to fix.� � The 2000 presidential election exposed the deep, structural problems that plague our voting system. Twelve years later, our troubles appear to have worsened. It is especially disconcerting when one considers that administrative failures at the polls are �pure and simple �a de facto form of voter suppression. � Among the litany of problems that came to a head on Election Day: Long waits in the cold or the heat. Confusing and conflicting instructions from poorly trained officials. A paucity of voting machines, or aging, malfunctioning machines with few or no backups. A shortage of paper ballots and absentee ballots that failed to reach civilian and military voters in time. � Think about the worker who gets only two hours off to vote and must decide whether to risk the wrath of his employer when the line at the polls takes longer than that. Or the working mother who worries about facing late fees if she doesn�t make it to a booth before she is supposed to pick up her children at day care. Such costs amount to a modern-day poll tax. They must be eliminated. � We saw the problem firsthand at polling places in Virginia, including in Northern Virginia and Chesapeake, where polling places reported waits of up to five hours. This is why we have joined Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to introduce the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012. � The FAST Voting Act recognizes that modernizing the nation�s voting system will require a collaboration by federal, state and local stakeholders, and that we will need to provide incentives to accelerate change. Our legislation would authorize a competitive grant program, similar to the Education Department�s Race to the Top, to reward states that aggressively implement innovative election reforms, and it would measure their progress to ensure the money is well spent. States adopting the most comprehensive and promising reforms would receive a greater portion of the funding. � As Virginia officials with significant experience as chief executives in state and local government, we strongly believe that the federal government often works best when it leverages such �laboratories of democracy� to test innovative policies, identifying those practices worthy of being standardized at the federal level. � Consistent with this principle, our bill avoids overly prescriptive requirements. Instead, it would evaluate voting improvement plans against a diverse set of reforms with the ultimate goal of achieving uniform standards for federal elections. � Among the potential reforms put forth in our bill are: flexible voter registration, including same-day registration; early voting on a minimum of nine of the 10 calendar days preceding an election; no-excuse-needed absentee voting; assistance to voters who do not speak English; assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairment; effective access to absentee voting for members of the armed services; better training of election officials; auditing and reducing waiting times at polling stations; and creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a disaster. � This is not a cure-all bill to instantly repair our voting system, nor is it intended to be. From defeating the poll tax and eliminating literacy tests to the adoption of vote-by-mail in some western states, perfecting our voting system has always been an evolutionary endeavor. If enacted, however, the FAST Voting Act would be a decisive step forward, fostering the improvements that are needed to prevent repeating the dysfunction of Nov. 6 and to guarantee that every American is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote. � *The writers, both Democrats from Virginia, are members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively.* � www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/it-shouldnt-be-this-hard-to-vote/2012/12/07/5c68e1a2-3e6c-11e2-a2d9-822f58ac9fd5_story.html [link 3] � � [image = www.washingtonpost.com/rw/sites/twpweb/img/logos/twp_logo_300.gif] *Repairing America�s elections* By Editorial Board, Published: December 9 � LAST MONTH, more than 120 million Americans participated in the orderly and peaceful selection of the country�s leaders. But, as the thousands who had to wait in freezing, hours-long lines can attest, the process wasn�t as orderly and peaceful as it should be. � Voters at polling places across Northern Virginia were among those who suffered. In Fairfax County, the last voter to cast a ballot did so at 10:30 p.m. �3� hours after the polls were meant to close. The chairman of Prince William County�s Board of Supervisors said that he had to wait two hours to vote. Others found their names missing from voting rolls, maybe because they forgot to update their registrations after moving. � Richard H. Pildes, a senior legal adviser to the Obama campaign, has identified some of the biggest sources of Election Day misery, particularly in Virginia. Local control over election procedures leads to too little money spent on voting machines. Poorly trained poll workers get confused by constantly changing laws and procedures. Voter registration and record-keeping are getting more high-tech, but there are still many kinks. Many states lack policies that could take some of the pressure off, such as early voting. � One response is for Congress to mandate policies such as online voter registration, early voting and minimum numbers of machines and staff at every polling place, as a bill from Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) would do. That should begin a bigger debate about setting more stringent national standards for national elections. � Two other Virginia lawmakers, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D), have a more comprehensive but less prescriptive approach: Use the logic of President Obama�s successful education initiative, Race to the Top, to encourage states to reform themselves. Along with their co-sponsor, Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Mr. Warner and Mr. Connolly would dangle the possibility of grants to states that put together election reform programs that embrace any or all of nine sensible improvements, including more flexible registration rules, early voting for at least nine of the 10 days before Election Day, more training for poll workers and better accessibility for voters with disabilities. � www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/repairing-americas-elections/2012/12/09/1cb1c35c-40bb-11e2-a2d9-822f58ac9fd5_story.html [link 4] � By Mark Warner and Gerald E. Connolly, Published: December 7 � Americans headed to the polls in huge numbers on Election Day to exercise their most fundamental right. Unfortunately, what they encountered was not an efficient or effective voting system but a haphazard patchwork of procedures resulting in confusion, irregularities and outrageously long lines. In many places �including Virginia �voters were forced to stand in line for hours to simply cast a ballot. � This is not a Republican or Democratic problem; voters from both parties were affected. Nor is it an urban, suburban or rural problem. It is truly a national, bipartisan crisis and one, to quote President Obama, �we have to fix.� � The 2000 presidential election exposed the deep, structural problems that plague our voting system. Twelve years later, our troubles appear to have worsened. It is especially disconcerting when one considers that administrative failures at the polls are �pure and simple �a de facto form of voter suppression. � Among the litany of problems that came to a head on Election Day: Long waits in the cold or the heat. Confusing and conflicting instructions from poorly trained officials. A paucity of voting machines, or aging, malfunctioning machines with few or no backups. A shortage of paper ballots and absentee ballots that failed to reach civilian and military voters in time. � Think about the worker who gets only two hours off to vote and must decide whether to risk the wrath of his employer when the line at the polls takes longer than that. Or the working mother who worries about facing late fees if she doesn�t make it to a booth before she is supposed to pick up her children at day care. Such costs amount to a modern-day poll tax. They must be eliminated. � We saw the problem firsthand at polling places in Virginia, including in Northern Virginia and Chesapeake, where polling places reported waits of up to five hours. This is why we have joined Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to introduce the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012. � The FAST Voting Act recognizes that modernizing the nation�s voting system will require a collaboration by federal, state and local stakeholders, and that we will need to provide incentives to accelerate change. Our legislation would authorize a competitive grant program, similar to the Education Department�s Race to the Top, to reward states that aggressively implement innovative election reforms, and it would measure their progress to ensure the money is well spent. States adopting the most comprehensive and promising reforms would receive a greater portion of the funding. � As Virginia officials with significant experience as chief executives in state and local government, we strongly believe that the federal government often works best when it leverages such �laboratories of democracy� to test innovative policies, identifying those practices worthy of being standardized at the federal level. � Consistent with this principle, our bill avoids overly prescriptive requirements. Instead, it would evaluate voting improvement plans against a diverse set of reforms with the ultimate goal of achieving uniform standards for federal elections. � Among the potential reforms put forth in our bill are: flexible voter registration, including same-day registration; early voting on a minimum of nine of the 10 calendar days preceding an election; no-excuse-needed absentee voting; assistance to voters who do not speak English; assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairment; effective access to absentee voting for members of the armed services; better training of election officials; auditing and reducing waiting times at polling stations; and creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a disaster. � This is not a cure-all bill to instantly repair our voting system, nor is it intended to be. From defeating the poll tax and eliminating literacy tests to the adoption of vote-by-mail in some western states, perfecting our voting system has always been an evolutionary endeavor. If enacted, however, the FAST Voting Act would be a decisive step forward, fostering the improvements that are needed to prevent repeating the dysfunction of Nov. 6 and to guarantee that every American is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote. � The writers, both Democrats from Virginia, are members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively. � www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/it-shouldnt-be-this-hard-to-vote/2012/12/07/5c68e1a2-3e6c-11e2-a2d9-822f58ac9fd5_story.html
December 27, 2012

Dear Neighbor,

In case you missed them, I want to share with you the  and the recent  on improving and streamlining voting for all Americans. Voting is a sacred right we as Americans must be free to exercise.  The failures we witnessed on Election Day such as long lines, too few voting machines, and poorly-trained poll workers are unacceptable. We must have uniform standards in federal elections. The FAST Voting Act I introduced with Senator Warner is a first step to remedying this broken system.

 

Sincerely,


Gerald E. Connolly
Member of Congress
11th District of Virginia

 

 
It Shouldn't Be This Hard To Vote
By Mark Warner and Gerald E. Connolly, Published: December 7
 
Americans headed to the polls in huge numbers on Election Day to exercise their most fundamental right. Unfortunately, what they encountered was not an efficient or effective voting system but a haphazard patchwork of procedures resulting in confusion, irregularities and outrageously long lines. In many places — including Virginia — voters were forced to stand in line for hours to simply cast a ballot.
 
This is not a Republican or Democratic problem; voters from both parties were affected. Nor is it an urban, suburban or rural problem. It is truly a national, bipartisan crisis and one, to quote President Obama, “we have to fix.”
 
The 2000 presidential election exposed the deep, structural problems that plague our voting system. Twelve years later, our troubles appear to have worsened. It is especially disconcerting when one considers that administrative failures at the polls are — pure and simple — a de facto form of voter suppression.
 
Among the litany of problems that came to a head on Election Day: Long waits in the cold or the heat. Confusing and conflicting instructions from poorly trained officials. A paucity of voting machines, or aging, malfunctioning machines with few or no backups. A shortage of paper ballots and absentee ballots that failed to reach civilian and military voters in time.
 
Think about the worker who gets only two hours off to vote and must decide whether to risk the wrath of his employer when the line at the polls takes longer than that. Or the working mother who worries about facing late fees if she doesn’t make it to a booth before she is supposed to pick up her children at day care. Such costs amount to a modern-day poll tax. They must be eliminated.
 
We saw the problem firsthand at polling places in Virginia, including in Northern Virginia and Chesapeake, where polling places reported waits of up to five hours. This is why we have joined Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to introduce the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012.
 
The FAST Voting Act recognizes that modernizing the nation’s voting system will require a collaboration by federal, state and local stakeholders, and that we will need to provide incentives to accelerate change. Our legislation would authorize a competitive grant program, similar to the Education Department’s Race to the Top, to reward states that aggressively implement innovative election reforms, and it would measure their progress to ensure the money is well spent. States adopting the most comprehensive and promising reforms would receive a greater portion of the funding.
 
As Virginia officials with significant experience as chief executives in state and local government, we strongly believe that the federal government often works best when it leverages such “laboratories of democracy” to test innovative policies, identifying those practices worthy of being standardized at the federal level.
 
Consistent with this principle, our bill avoids overly prescriptive requirements. Instead, it would evaluate voting improvement plans against a diverse set of reforms with the ultimate goal of achieving uniform standards for federal elections.
 
Among the potential reforms put forth in our bill are: flexible voter registration, including same-day registration; early voting on a minimum of nine of the 10 calendar days preceding an election; no-excuse-needed absentee voting; assistance to voters who do not speak English; assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairment; effective access to absentee voting for members of the armed services; better training of election officials; auditing and reducing waiting times at polling stations; and creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a disaster.
 
This is not a cure-all bill to instantly repair our voting system, nor is it intended to be. From defeating the poll tax and eliminating literacy tests to the adoption of vote-by-mail in some western states, perfecting our voting system has always been an evolutionary endeavor. If enacted, however, the FAST Voting Act would be a decisive step forward, fostering the improvements that are needed to prevent repeating the dysfunction of Nov. 6 and to guarantee that every American is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote.
 
The writers, both Democrats from Virginia, are members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively.
 
 

Repairing America’s elections
By Editorial Board, Published: December 9
 
LAST MONTH, more than 120 million Americans participated in the orderly and peaceful selection of the country’s leaders. But, as the thousands who had to wait in freezing, hours-long lines can attest, the process wasn’t as orderly and peaceful as it should be.
 
Voters at polling places across Northern Virginia were among those who suffered. In Fairfax County, the last voter to cast a ballot did so at 10:30 p.m. — 3½ hours after the polls were meant to close. The chairman of Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors said that he had to wait two hours to vote. Others found their names missing from voting rolls, maybe because they forgot to update their registrations after moving.
 
Richard H. Pildes, a senior legal adviser to the Obama campaign, has identified some of the biggest sources of Election Day misery, particularly in Virginia. Local control over election procedures leads to too little money spent on voting machines. Poorly trained poll workers get confused by constantly changing laws and procedures. Voter registration and record-keeping are getting more high-tech, but there are still many kinks. Many states lack policies that could take some of the pressure off, such as early voting.
 
One response is for Congress to mandate policies such as online voter registration, early voting and minimum numbers of machines and staff at every polling place, as a bill from Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) would do. That should begin a bigger debate about setting more stringent national standards for national elections.
 
Two other Virginia lawmakers, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D), have a more comprehensive but less prescriptive approach: Use the logic of President Obama’s successful education initiative, Race to the Top, to encourage states to reform themselves. Along with their co-sponsor, Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Mr. Warner and Mr. Connolly would dangle the possibility of grants to states that put together election reform programs that embrace any or all of nine sensible improvements, including more flexible registration rules, early voting for at least nine of the 10 days before Election Day, more training for poll workers and better accessibility for voters with disabilities.
 
By Mark Warner and Gerald E. Connolly, Published: December 7
 
Americans headed to the polls in huge numbers on Election Day to exercise their most fundamental right. Unfortunately, what they encountered was not an efficient or effective voting system but a haphazard patchwork of procedures resulting in confusion, irregularities and outrageously long lines. In many places — including Virginia — voters were forced to stand in line for hours to simply cast a ballot.
 
This is not a Republican or Democratic problem; voters from both parties were affected. Nor is it an urban, suburban or rural problem. It is truly a national, bipartisan crisis and one, to quote President Obama, “we have to fix.”
 
The 2000 presidential election exposed the deep, structural problems that plague our voting system. Twelve years later, our troubles appear to have worsened. It is especially disconcerting when one considers that administrative failures at the polls are — pure and simple — a de facto form of voter suppression.
 
Among the litany of problems that came to a head on Election Day: Long waits in the cold or the heat. Confusing and conflicting instructions from poorly trained officials. A paucity of voting machines, or aging, malfunctioning machines with few or no backups. A shortage of paper ballots and absentee ballots that failed to reach civilian and military voters in time.
 
Think about the worker who gets only two hours off to vote and must decide whether to risk the wrath of his employer when the line at the polls takes longer than that. Or the working mother who worries about facing late fees if she doesn’t make it to a booth before she is supposed to pick up her children at day care. Such costs amount to a modern-day poll tax. They must be eliminated.
 
We saw the problem firsthand at polling places in Virginia, including in Northern Virginia and Chesapeake, where polling places reported waits of up to five hours. This is why we have joined Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to introduce the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012.
 
The FAST Voting Act recognizes that modernizing the nation’s voting system will require a collaboration by federal, state and local stakeholders, and that we will need to provide incentives to accelerate change. Our legislation would authorize a competitive grant program, similar to the Education Department’s Race to the Top, to reward states that aggressively implement innovative election reforms, and it would measure their progress to ensure the money is well spent. States adopting the most comprehensive and promising reforms would receive a greater portion of the funding.
 
As Virginia officials with significant experience as chief executives in state and local government, we strongly believe that the federal government often works best when it leverages such “laboratories of democracy” to test innovative policies, identifying those practices worthy of being standardized at the federal level.
 
Consistent with this principle, our bill avoids overly prescriptive requirements. Instead, it would evaluate voting improvement plans against a diverse set of reforms with the ultimate goal of achieving uniform standards for federal elections.
 
Among the potential reforms put forth in our bill are: flexible voter registration, including same-day registration; early voting on a minimum of nine of the 10 calendar days preceding an election; no-excuse-needed absentee voting; assistance to voters who do not speak English; assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairment; effective access to absentee voting for members of the armed services; better training of election officials; auditing and reducing waiting times at polling stations; and creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a disaster.
 
This is not a cure-all bill to instantly repair our voting system, nor is it intended to be. From defeating the poll tax and eliminating literacy tests to the adoption of vote-by-mail in some western states, perfecting our voting system has always been an evolutionary endeavor. If enacted, however, the FAST Voting Act would be a decisive step forward, fostering the improvements that are needed to prevent repeating the dysfunction of Nov. 6 and to guarantee that every American is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote.
 
The writers, both Democrats from Virginia, are members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively.
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/it-shouldnt-be-this-hard-to-vote/2012/12/07/5c68e1a2-3e6c-11e2-a2d9-822f58ac9fd5_story.html
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