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Proposed Efforts to Fix Systemic Problems in US Voting System

Former RI Secretary of State writes to Senate leaders about ways to address long lines, other barriers

Following numerous instances of excruciatingly long lines as well as complications at the polls that made it more difficult for people across the country to vote in this month's election, and with some communities still trying to finish their ballot counting more than a week later, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) is proposing efforts to fix systemic problems in the voting system.

As a first step, Langevin, who worked to reform Rhode Island's outdated election system as Secretary of State in the 1990s and helped to craft the Help America Vote Act during his first term in Congress, is urging swift action by the Senate to fill openings on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC).

Formed as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to respond to challenges highlighted by the 2000 presidential election, the commission has four vacancies requiring Senate confirmation. Langevin also points out that HAVA funding has unfortunately decreased since its passage despite the law's recognition of the need to invest in our election infrastructure over the long term.

"While states will continue to administer the elections process, the EAC still has an important role to play in assisting states to avert some of the problems voters encountered in the 2012 election," writes Langevin, who made the Rhode Island ballot easier to use during his Secretary of State tenure. "It is clear that many of the same problems that existed in 2000 still exist today despite the best efforts of a resource-challenged EAC. In the interest of avoiding these challenges in the future, I urge you to work with the Administration in filling the vacancies that remain in the EAC."

Here is the full letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Republican Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Republican Leader McConnell;

November 6, 2012, was an historic day for our country. Regardless of which political party or candidate they supported, Americans everywhere had an opportunity on Election Day to participate in the most fundamental right of our democracy: The right to vote. However, as voters turned out in record numbers across the country, many found themselves in long lines, in some cases waiting hours after the polls closed. In certain states, reports indicated that polls didn't open on time due to a lack of election workers; in others, people reportedly waited upwards of 5 hours due to a shortage of voting machines, election workers, ballots.

As a former Secretary of State, I find indefensible that these issues continue to plague our elections in the 21st Century. They present distressing barriers to participation in our democratic process, particularly among minority voters, members of our Armed Services, people with disabilities and seniors. In many instances, the persistent problems with our electoral system lead to voter disenfranchisement, deterring voter participation in current and future elections.

Solving these recurring problems is long overdue. As you know, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was enacted in 2002 to address challenges surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential election. It established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to assist in the administration of Federal elections and create minimum election administration standards. Unfortunately, the EAC's four commissioner positions are currently vacant with two nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, and program funding for HAVA has significantly diminished over the years.

While states will continue to administer the elections process, the EAC still has an important role to play in assisting states to avert some of the problems voters encountered in the 2012 election. The EAC acknowledged that "HAVA was not contemplated as a short-term or partial solution to the issues and problems with the administration of Federal elections that came to the forefront during the 2000 elections." The law recognized the need to invest in our election infrastructure and set out a comprehensive program of funding, guidance, and ongoing research that spans the course of many years.

It is clear that many of the problems that existed in 2000 still exist today despite the best efforts of a resource-challenged EAC. In the interest of avoiding these challenges in the future, I urge you to work with the Administration in filling the vacancies that remain in the EAC. This should be our first step towards providing the states with the assistance necessary to ensure every American has the utmost faith in the integrity of our elections.

Sincerely,

Jim Langevin
Member of Congress

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