Modernize the U.S. Voting System
New Bill in Congress Would Begin Voting System Reform
A few politicians are showing some leadership and searching for ways to improve the disgraceful, outdated, fraud-filled system of voting currently in place across the United States.
Legislation Would Fund Comprehensive FEC Study of Alterative Methods and Create $250 Million Matching Grant Program for States Upgrade Their Systems
Bill Has Support of Broad Coalition of Federal, State, Local Officials and Leading Voting Reform Advocates
Standing with a broad coalition of federal, state and local elected officials and a series of leading voting reform advocates, US Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced the Voting Study and Improvement Act of 2000, comprehensive bipartisan legislation to study and implement alternative methods of voting.
"Despite over two hundred years of elections, we vote as if we still lived in the 19th Century," said Schumer. "When it comes to something as fundamental as the right to vote, the status quo is simply unacceptable. This bill will work because it will give states the know how and resources to upgrade their systems. And it will pass because it has the type of bipartisan support needed to break through Congressional gridlock and reach the President's desk."
"The 2000 Presidential election has taught us that we need to improve the instruments of voting and the means of electing our federal office holders," said Brownback. "This is the first bipartisan attempt to provide grant money to states to implement alternate means and instruments of voting that provide swifter and more accurate results, and are less susceptible to partisan interference and difference of opinion."
On Election Day, voters across the country encountered a host of headaches, including long lines, broken ballot boxes, registration mixups, and confusion stemming from a host of archaic voting methods.
The Progress Report interjects -- voters also encountered racism, deliberate intimidation, improper questioning, misconduct, fraud, and other problems such as military personnel ballots that were submitted on time but never received postmarks. We need more than a government study to address the rampant corruption that is ruining American democracy and making our system look like the communist system that we used to joke about.
The Schumer-Brownback bill will help upgrade state voting systems quickly and effectively in two steps.
First, the bill directs the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to conduct a study of alternative methods of voting to be completed no later than December 31, 2001. The FEC study, funded at $10 million, will analyze methods that currently exist – including Internet voting, vote-by-mail, computerized voting terminals, expanded voting periods – and develop new ideas. After the examining different methods, the FEC will create a blueprint that states can use to implement new voting methods.
When the FEC's work is complete, the bill will establish a $250 million matching grant program, giving states the financial incentive to implement the new methods. Many states have experimented with alternative methods of voting in the past, but implementing new systems have often proven too expensive.
"This is not a federal mandate of election standards. We provide the means to states to implement the changes that they deem are most fitting for their needs," said Brownback.
"Our bill doesn't automatically select one method of voting and it doesn't force any one specific method on the states," said Schumer. "It gives states the expertise and the means to modernize their voting systems without leading us into a constitutional battle over whether the federal government has the right to dictate how we should vote."
The FEC study should be complete by December 31, 2001, giving states time to begin implementing the new methods in time for the mid-term 2002 elections and offer voters a fully improved and modernized system by the 2004 Presidential election.
Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Max Cleland (D-GA); Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox; Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz; Scott Harshbarger, President of Common Cause; Bob O'Neil, President of the National Academy of Public Administration; Bill Slate, President of the American Arbitration Association; Eric Olson, Deputy Director of the Center for Voting and Democracy; and Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director (NYS) of the League of Women's Voters joined Schumer and Brownback at a press conference to introduce the bill.
"Both rural and urban areas have unique differences not only with accessibility to voting, but in funding improvements to their voting systems," said Brownback. "A heavily rural state like Kansas has problems with voting that are different than those faced by New York City. Our legislation will allow each state to implement the changes that are best for them."
"In the face of declining turnout and lack of interest in the political process, we simply cannot afford to have outdated voting systems that are so cumbersome and frustrating that they discourage people from voting altogether," said Schumer. "This bill will help make our voting systems as innovative as the people who use them."
The bill's number is S.3273. Please contact your Senators and ask them to support this bill, or at least to explain their opinions. Although ideally it should not be necessary, we need to show them that Americans care about democracy.
Don't forget Fred Foldvary's remarks on ballot reform, either!
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