Voting Reform No. 273A
The problems with the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, once again, have highlighted the civil rights issues and administrative inadequacies of the United States voting process. Problems encountered within the U.S. included: flawed registration procedures, inadequate records, lack of communication with voters regarding registration and voting, ill-trained election workers, lack of standardized ballots and rules, and questionable access to the polls. U.S. citizens overseas faced many of these problems as well.
Some work has been done on these issues. ADA applauds Congress for passing the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Its provisions include establishing a single office in each state to supervise and report on the state's overseas ballots as well as providing funds to help modernize state voting equipment. These actions go a long way towards comprehensive and effective voting reform. However, there is still much left undone in the following areas:
ELECTION DAY HOLIDAY
There has been a massive decline in voter turnout in the last half-century. Reasons for this decline include: long lines at urban polling centers, lack of facilities that may be used for elections, and - perhaps most importantly - the inability of many citizens to leave work or school to vote. In fact, census data compiled after the 2000 elections shows that the number one reason cited by non-voters was a workplace or classroom conflict.
Moreover, a bi-partisan commission headed by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford supports a federal holiday on Election Day.
Not only can a national holiday enhance every citizen's opportunity to vote, it can streamline the electoral process. An increased number of trained polling workers will be available to work during elections. Additionally, schools and other public buildings will become available for use on Election Day. These improvements would serve to ease polling rush hours and rid our electoral process of the long lines that have discouraged and prevented so many United States citizens from voting.
Voter registration laws and administrative rules which impede the exercise of the right to vote must be replaced by new laws which prevent election fraud while providing easy access to registration and voting free from discrimination. Surely, in today's electronic age, election officials should be up to that challenge.
OVERSEAS VOTING REFORM
Among the deficiencies in the voting process spotlighted by the 2000 election were the difficulties faced in tallying absentee ballots of Americans at home and abroad.
In the United States today, approximately 4.6 million convicted felons - 1 in 50 adults - have currently or permanently been deprived of the right to vote. This includes 1.4 million former felons who have completed their sentences. Felony disenfranchisement is governed entirely at the state-level, which creates a web of uneven laws with varying degrees of severity across the nation. In Maine and Vermont, for example, the state imposes no voting restrictions upon felons, even allowing incarcerated felons to vote; in the other forty-eight states and the District of Columbia, incarcerated felons cannot vote, and many of these states further disenfranchise felons during parole or probation. Thirteen states impose lifetime disenfranchisement on felons, permanently denying ex-offenders the full restoration of their civil rights.
ADA considers denying already-marginalized individuals their political voice undermines the very democratic ideals which the United States strives to embody. Furthermore, the disproportionately high number of African-American felons means that, currently, 6.3 percent of the national Black population is disenfranchised.
- Calls on the President and Congress to fully fund efforts to enforce the Help America Vote Act. More important, ADA insists that the President and Congress enact further voting reforms establishing minimal federal standards for both domestic voting and overseas voting by both civilian and military personnel, to ensure an open, equal, and efficient system that includes a verifiable paper trail.
- Supports the creation of an Election Day holiday to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to perform his or her civic duty and vote.
- Calls upon Congress and the states to enact legislation allowing enforceable same day registration, in which citizens can register to vote on Election Day at the polling place itself. In addition, ADA supports mail-in registration and/or electronic registration and active assistance by public offices in providing, filling in, witnessing, and submitting the forms to the election authorities. ADA also supports automatic registration, in which application for a driver's license, health or unemployment benefits, or other public transactions that require establishing a citizen's age, identity, and residence would also constitute registration to vote.
- Calls upon the Department of Justice to vigorously monitor state efforts to evade, modify, or ignore federal laws designed to expand suffrage, including the Motor Voter Law.
- Continues to support the campaigns of women, youth, minorities and low-income citizens to register their voters and calls on our chapters to assist these drives in every way possible.
Joins with Democrats Abroad and other groups seeking comprehensive reform of the election process in urging the passage of HR 533, the Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 2005, which provides for changes to the procedures for Americans voting abroad, including (a) a single federal system for overseas citizens and military personnel voting in federal elections; (b) requiring local election officials immediately to return to each applicant the postcard confirming their registration (already included in the Federal Post Card Application), and inform the voter later whether his/her ballot was accepted for counting; (c) eliminating postmark and date stamp requirements and allowing any dated and witnessed ballots to be accepted; and (d) abolishing all notarization requirements.
- Strongly supports state legislation abolishing disenfranchisement laws for felons.
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Politics and Government Policy Commission