Thursday, June 13, 2013

U. S. Senator Mark Warner calls for public meetings on election day wait times

U. S. Senator Mark Warner

U. S. Senator Mark Warner

U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today sent a letter to the chairmen of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, Robert F. Bauer and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, urging them to take strong steps to address the hours-long election lines that too many voters endured during the 2012 election. The Commission, a non-partisan panel created by the President earlier this year to promote more efficient elections, is set to have its first public meeting in Washington on June 21.

Sen. Warner’s efforts to protect voting rights follow an election day last November that saw extraordinarily long lines in Virginia.  Some voters in Prince William County, for instance, reported waiting in lines for up to three hours.  Wait times reportedly stretched to five hours at some voting precincts in Chesapeake, more than four at polling places in Virginia Beach, and up to three and a half in Fairfax County.

“The long lines and wait times that many voters in Virginia and across the country experienced last November were unacceptable for the world’s leading democracy,” said Sen. Warner. “We need to continue looking for opportunities to improve access to this most basic Constitutional right.”

Specifically, the Senators called on the Commission to hold public meetings in areas of the country where voters faced the longest lines so the Commissioners can hear directly from the public and seek answers from state and local election officials. For example, voters in parts of Virginia waited in lines of up to five hours, and in parts of Florida voters waited for up to seven hours to cast a ballot.

“Voters in these areas had the most difficulty in having their voices heard on Election Day, and are those most deserving of the opportunity to be heard at your public hearings,” the Senators wrote.

Sens. Warner, Boxer, Coons, and Nelson also called on the Commission to examine whether the long voting lines were the result of discriminatory behavior, given that a recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that African-American and Hispanic voters waited twice as long to vote as white voters during the 2012 election.

In the letter, the lawmakers urged the Commission to make specific legislative recommendations to Congress. Several bills have already been introduced in the Senate, including the LINE Act, sponsored by Sens. Boxer and Nelson, which would help ensure that no American voter has to wait longer than one hour to cast a ballot, and the FAST Voting Act, introduced by Sens. Warner, Coons and others, which would create a competitive grant program to encourage states to aggressively pursue election reform.

“The American people will be closely watching the work of the Commission,” the Senators wrote. “The President has entrusted you with great responsibility, and we urge you to complete the mandate you have been given in a meaningful way.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Elections, National, Politics

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