Senate Democrats introduce legislation disallowing voting lines longer than 30 minutes

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Two Senate Democrats introduced a narrowly focused election-reform bill amid the various other alternatives that are not expected to pass.

The legislation, which Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced on Thursday, would require states to ensure that no voter would have to wait longer than 30 minutes to cast their ballot.

MANCHIN DID NOT PERSONALLY MEET WITH LEGISLATORS LOBBY FOR ELECTION OVERHAUL

The People Over Long Lines Act would require the Election Assistance Commission to pursue audits to determine how long voters wait in line, and it includes $500 million to help states achieve the goal of the legislation.

Specifically, the legislation would mandate that states submit their written plan of how they plan to ensure short voter waiting periods both publicly and to the EAC. Those plans have to be provided no later than 60 days before each federal election.

“No one should be shut out of the democratic process just because they can’t spend hours waiting in lines to cast a ballot,” Wyden said in a statement. ”Making voting accessible and convenient shouldn’t be a partisan issue. I have never heard Oregonians, Democrats or Republicans, tell me they long for the days where voting took longer. It’s time to pass the POLL Act and put an end to unreasonable lines in every state.”

Should the legislation go into effect, voters who are forced to wait longer than the allotted period of time are eligible for a $50 right of action, and they’d get an additional $50 for every hour after that. If it’s determined that the long lines were intentionally created to deter turnout, penalties would increase.

“Forcing people to wait in long lines to vote is a long-standing tool used to prevent citizens from voting to manipulate elections, and like nearly every voter suppression strategy in American history, it's directed six times as often at people of color," said Merkley. “Nobody should have to spend hours out in the weather, when they might need to get to work or pick up their kids, to exercise their constitutional rights. If we believe in the freedom to vote and democracy, let's make sure staffing and equipment are distributed equitably so nobody has to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.”

The bill is a much narrower version than H.R.1/S.1, the For the People Act, which passed the House in March, though it’s all but dead in the Senate barring the removal of the filibuster.

The legislation would allow felons who have completed their incarceration to vote and would require states to use drop boxes and to allow unexcused mail-in voting in federal elections, and it would also change campaign finance disclosure.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has come out in opposition to the For the People Act, citing in part concern for a partisan vote on election integrity.

Earlier this week, the senator shared a memo outlining election reform changes that he would support. It calls for Election Day to be declared a public holiday, mandates more than two weeks of early voting for federal elections in every state, backs automatic voter registration through the department of motor vehicles, and calls for updates to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

It also backs H.R.1/S.1's plan to alter campaign finance reform — specifically, the memo supports the DISCLOSE Act and the Honest Ads Act.

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On Thursday, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Democrat and voting rights activist, said she “absolutely” supports the measures proposed in Manchin’s memo.

But after her endorsement of the memo, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw cold water on the idea that this was a “compromise" and that Republicans would be open to it.

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Tags: News, Voting, 2022 Elections, Campaigns, Congress, Elections, Ron Wyden

Original Author: Mike Brest

Original Location: Senate Democrats introduce legislation disallowing voting lines longer than 30 minutes

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