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senate Bill S. 1951

Should States Be Required to Provide Expanded Early Voting or No-Excuse Absentee Ballots?

Argument in favor

Things like online voter registration, early voting, and no-excuse absentee voting make it easier for Americans to vote. Making the voting process more convenient should increase turnout and decrease apathy.

Why's Opinion
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08/10/2015
America ranks near the bottom of all democracies in terms of voter turnout, and in no small part it's because there are 16 states were you can ONLY vote on a Tuesday, during business hours, at an assigned polling location near a voter's home, not their work. This is inconvenient enough for middle class voters with a 9 to 5, but for parents, commuters, and voters working multiple jobs it can be nearly impossible. Congress set Tuesday as Election Day in 1845 to make voting convenient in a largely agrarian economy. We're long overdue for a bill that will make it convenient for everyday Americans to vote in the 21st century.
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PacificCstar's Opinion
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08/12/2015
I am for anything that makes voting easier and more accessible to every American.
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08/15/2015
We must do everything we can to remove every barrier we can between the voter and the ballot box. This includes eliminating voter IDs, because they are ludicrously unconstitutional. Any government-imposed financial barrier to vote or acquire the necessary qualifications to vote amounts to a poll tax, no matter how small that fee is. The 24th amendment explicitly prohibits the government from denying our right to vote for failing to pay any taxes, including poll taxes.
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Argument opposed

Imposing numerous federal requirements on states to change the way that voters interact with the government during the voting process undermines the ability of citizens to design their state’s voting system.

operaman's Opinion
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08/11/2015
I do support absentee ballots, but not "early" voting. Why allow extra time for vote manipulation, such as voting between two states or for college students voting at "home" and then register and vote in college town. While many registrars bend over backwards to maintain current voting information, others don't clear their rolls of deceased voters or duplicate registrations between counties.
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Ronald's Opinion
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08/11/2015
we need voter ID but we do not need to make any changes in how we vote
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GrumpyMSgt's Opinion
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08/11/2015
Early voting is out of control. Voting is a right and responsibility like paying taxes or renewing your drivers license. You don't need a six-month window to do these items you don't need six months to vote, meet the deadline. Early voting give those in charge a chance to change the votes no no no.
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What is Senate Bill S. 1951?

This bill would enact several provisions related to expanding accessibility for voters, including online voter registration, requirements related to early voting and absentee voting, and changes related to voters changing their address in the registration process.

An online version of the federal mail voter registration application would be available to all Americans who are eligible to register to vote. States would be required to create their own registration form that includes all elements of the federal form. This would automatically cancel the voter’s previous registration in another jurisdiction, so if you move across the county line you wouldn’t have to bother cancelling your old registration.

The USPS change of address form would give an individual the opportunity to update their voter registration, or update their information. The voter registration deadline would be changed to give voters four full weeks before Election Day to register to vote.

States would be required to either provide at least one week of early voting or a “no-excuse” absentee ballot without compelling voters to provide an explanation for voting absentee. If a state opts for early voting, it would be required to occur for at least eight hours per day on seven of the 10 days preceding a federal election.

Re-registration requirements that states currently have for voters who move and change their address would be overruled by federal law if this bill is enacted, by allowing voters who had previously registered in that state to update their address all the way up until Election Day.

Impact

Voters who would take advantage of online registration, early voting or no-excuse absentee ballots, and the simplified change of address process; state governments; and Congress.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1951

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: This bill was introduced to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act being signed into law. The VRA prohibited poll taxes, literacy tests, and other barriers to voting aimed at disenfranchising blacks and other minority groups — who became more involved in elections as a result.


Sponsoring Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) harkened back to the significance of that legislation in a press release introducing this bill:

“On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we should be celebrating the progress we have made. Unfortunately, the right to vote in this country is still under attack… In a polarized Democracy, individuals of all political stripes ought to be able to agree that we should make it as easy as possible for voters to participate in the process. This legislation would do just that, and I’m hopeful it will earn bipartisan support.”

Of Note: According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, about 20 states have made online voter registration available to voters. There are currently 14 states that do not have early voting and require individuals to have an excuse when requesting an absentee ballot. These states would be affected by this legislation’s requirement for states to either offer eight hours of early voting per day for seven days before a federal election, or not require an excuse when granting absentee ballots..


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Nadya Peek)

Official Title

A bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require the availability of early voting or no-excuse absentee voting.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Rules and Administration
    IntroducedAugust 5th, 2015
    America ranks near the bottom of all democracies in terms of voter turnout, and in no small part it's because there are 16 states were you can ONLY vote on a Tuesday, during business hours, at an assigned polling location near a voter's home, not their work. This is inconvenient enough for middle class voters with a 9 to 5, but for parents, commuters, and voters working multiple jobs it can be nearly impossible. Congress set Tuesday as Election Day in 1845 to make voting convenient in a largely agrarian economy. We're long overdue for a bill that will make it convenient for everyday Americans to vote in the 21st century.
    Like (64)
    Follow
    Share
    I do support absentee ballots, but not "early" voting. Why allow extra time for vote manipulation, such as voting between two states or for college students voting at "home" and then register and vote in college town. While many registrars bend over backwards to maintain current voting information, others don't clear their rolls of deceased voters or duplicate registrations between counties.
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    I am for anything that makes voting easier and more accessible to every American.
    Like (41)
    Follow
    Share
    We must do everything we can to remove every barrier we can between the voter and the ballot box. This includes eliminating voter IDs, because they are ludicrously unconstitutional. Any government-imposed financial barrier to vote or acquire the necessary qualifications to vote amounts to a poll tax, no matter how small that fee is. The 24th amendment explicitly prohibits the government from denying our right to vote for failing to pay any taxes, including poll taxes.
    Like (25)
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    Share
    Low voter engagement is an issue that is hurting our democracy all across this country. States with early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots have higher voter turnout - and it's no coincidence. There are already many federal requirements on state voting systems. We need strong election reforms at all levels to improve and strengthen our democracy.
    Like (16)
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    Making it easier for people to vote is essential to raising the percentage of people who vote- be very suspicious of anyone who has a vested interest in decreasing voter turnout.
    Like (13)
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    Making voting easier for all ensures the opinions of citizens matter.
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    Voter turnout is abysmal and embarrassing in America. In many states, the restrictions on when, where, and how make it so difficult that only certain socioeconomic classes are even ABLE to vote and that is completely unacceptable. Partisan politics has worked for years to restrict voting rights and we need to put a stop to that. EVERYONE has a right to vote, and it is such a fundamental and important right that we cannot allow it to be limited based on where and when you work or live. The status quo is afraid of what will happen if more people vote. And they should be.
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    we need voter ID but we do not need to make any changes in how we vote
    Like (7)
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    Limiting opportunities to vote undermines our democracy and is biased against many people of color.
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    We, as a nation, should be in support of extending voting times, and giving more people the opportunity to vote.
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    Voting is the bed-rock of democracy. Don't be a fascist.
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    Early voting is out of control. Voting is a right and responsibility like paying taxes or renewing your drivers license. You don't need a six-month window to do these items you don't need six months to vote, meet the deadline. Early voting give those in charge a chance to change the votes no no no.
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    Voting should be easy, in fact I wish voting was manditory. Getting everyones voteis important for a democracy.
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    This is not going make voters vote or more them more interested. That comes from within. If you want to vote you will vote even if you have to stand in line and then show an ID.
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    Our nation will only be better with more of us voting.
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    Voting should be considered the highest of civil duties. Every man and woman should have available, in the EASIEST of ways, ballots in EVERY election. It's time to treat elections as they are supposed to be: democratic.
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    Let's make it easier for people to vote. Making it easier to vote means higher voter turnouts, and our government should represent as many of the American people as possible. That's the point of a democracy.
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    Anything to get more people to vote. In a country you still can..
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    Voting, for me at least is outdated and somewhat difficult to navigate. Amongst friends who do not vote, this is a real turn off, as well as the lack of information available about local candidates such as judgeships.
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