This bill suggests numerous changes to federal voting laws, aimed at expanding voter access to ballots and registration — while protecting voters from suppression or intimidation.
This bill would make voter registration forms available online for both new registrants and people who need to update their contact information. Individuals who are registering to vote could choose to receive an email at least one week before an election that provides information about the location of their polling place, its hours of operation, and what identification may be required.
All government agencies that are required to offer patrons the ability to register to vote would also be required to provide elections officials with a daily list of the personal information of people who received services, appear eligible to vote and didn’t decline to register.
Each state would be required to offer prospective voters the ability to register on the same day as a federal election, and voters could also update their information on election day. States would be required to accept voter registration forms from 16 and 17 year olds, although they would not be able to vote until age 18.
If this bill were enacted, it would make it illegal to hinder, interfere, or prevent another person from registering to vote or assisting another person in registering to vote.
States would be required to promote access to voter registration and voting for people with disabilities. There would be mandatory access to absentee ballots for the disabled, which must be provided 45 days before an election or earlier. This legislation would also allow for $30 million to be spent on pilot programs that allow disabled individuals to vote privately and independently at their residence by electronic means or telephone.
This bill offers stronger protections against voter caging, which is used to challenge voter registrations by sending mail to a list of voter residences, then contesting voters’ registration status if the mail comes back undeliverable because they don’t live there. It was banned under certain circumstances by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and this bill clarifies that race and national origin can’t be used as the basis for challenging a voter’s eligibility.
The penalty for voter intimidation would be increased from one year to five years, and other protections against voter suppression would be enacted under this bill. It would be illegal to knowingly provide false information about the time or place of voting for the purpose of impeding or preventing another person from voting.
Individuals who have been convicted of a crime would not lose their eligibility to vote unless they are serving a felony sentence in a correctional institution at the time of an election. States would not be required to have more restrictive standards than this, and no state would receive federal funds for prisons without putting in place a system to notify individuals of those rights. For felony offenders, they would be notified of their eligibility to vote when they are released from custody or serving probation.
New requirements that all ballots be paper and be counted by hand or optical character recognition device would be put into effect beginning with every federal election in 2020 or after. Additional requirements for mandatory hand-count audits of ballots would be put in place, with a greater percentage of a precinct’s ballots involved in the recount in closer elections.
Early voting would be required to occur in federal elections for at least 15 days (including weekends) for at least four hours each day within walking distance of public transportation. Signature comparisons would be required for any absentee ballot to be accepted.
This bill offers new avenues for filing complaints with state election officials to aid federal enforcement of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Each institution of higher education would be considered a voter registration agency, and would be required to register students at each registration for enrollment;
States would be required to notify voters affected by polling place changes at least seven days before an election;
The Attorney General would develop a hotline that provides information on voting, voter registration, the location and hours of polling places, and how to obtain absentee ballots;
The Election Assistance Commission would be reauthorized for fiscal years 2015-2019.