Holt bill would reduce hurdles to voting

Common Cause commends Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) for introducing the Electoral Fairness Act of 2006, a bill that would ensure fairness in voting by clarifying the rules governing provisional ballots, assuring adequate staffing and equipment at polling places and promoting the effective registration of voters.

“Long lines and problems with provisional ballots were among the biggest problems voters had at the polls in 2004,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “Congressman Holt’s bill would address these trouble spots and ensure that voters ballots are counted as cast.”

Key features of the bill include:

States would be required to count provisional ballots cast in Presidential and Senate races if cast in the correct state, and for Congressional races if cast in the correct Congressional district. States would also be required to notify voters who cast provisional ballots within 24 hours as to whether or not their ballots were counted, and to establish procedures under which voters whose provisional ballots were not counted may challenge that determination.

States would be required to report shortly after an election how polling places assured that no voter waited more than an hour to cast their ballot.

Also, requires that all registered voters be issued free voter registration cards that voters could use to prove their registration status if challenged by election officials. The bill does not create an additional ID requirement, and producing the voter registration card is not a pre-requisite to voting. Federal funds are authorized to defray the cost to the States of issuing the cards.

Holt is also the sponsor of he Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005 (HR 550), which would require that electronic voting machines produce a voter-verifiable paper trail.