Sen. Coons offers election overhaul bill

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Thursday introduced legislation to overhaul the nation’s election procedures after long lines and confusion at polling places last week left many voters frustrated.

President Obama acknowledged voting problems during his victory speech when he thanked people who “waited in line for a very long time.”

“By the way, we have to fix that,” he said.

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Coons has taken the first step just more than a week after Election Day by offering legislation that would set up a federal grant program that would reward states that make substantial improvements in the administration of elections to speed the voting process.

“Too many voters waited far too long to cast their ballots in this last election,” Coons said in a statement. “Long lines are a form of voter disenfranchisement, a polling place running out of ballots is a form of voter suppression, and making it harder for citizens to vote is a violation of voters’ civil rights.”

States applying for funding would be asked to take steps to provide for flexible registration, early voting, absentee voting, assistance to voters who do not speak English as a primary language and formal training for election officials. Applicant states are also required to audit and reduce waiting times at the worst-performing polling places.

States that show the most comprehensive reform plans would earn more federal funding to implement changes.

Coons told reporters at a press conference Thursday that he met some voters on Election Day who had been repeatedly directed to different polling places and were contemplating not voting at all.

“In several different places I ran into voters who were deeply frustrated,” he said. “Registration wasn’t as clear and predictable, access to the polling place wasn’t as clear and predictable as it should be.”

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