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house Bill H.R. 12

Expanding Access to Voter Registration, Polling Hours, and Absentee Ballots

Argument in favor

Voting is a right — not something that politicians should toy with. This bill ensures that registering to vote and casting your ballot is an equal, fair, and simple process for all voters.

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02/17/2016
“We need to make Election Day a federal holiday to increase voters’ ability to participate… We must make early voting an option for voters who work or study and need the flexibility to vote on evenings or weekends… We must automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18 or move to a new state. The burden of registering voters should be on the state, not the individual voter.” [berniesanders.com]
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BarackObama's Opinion
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02/17/2016
“One thing I focused on… was how we can make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now… in Illinois, a new law allows citizens to register and vote at the polls on Election Day. It also expands early voting, which makes it much easier for working folks and busy parents.” [breitbart.com]
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03/02/2016
Widespread access to voting rights is at the foundation of a strong, representative democracy.
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Argument opposed

This bill addresses too many different aspects of the voting process to give each area the attention it deserves. Not to mention how challenging it would be to implement.

Pegleg4570's Opinion
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02/17/2016
Only Citizens without A Felony have the Right to Vote.
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Ryan's Opinion
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02/18/2016
Democrats want this so they can keep casting votes for dead people. This is fact because the presidents DOJ went after states that wanted to clean up their voter registration database.
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ptcdcs's Opinion
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05/04/2016
Voting should be left to the states. The federal government has no Constitutional authority when deciding voter requirements and processes.
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What is House Bill H.R. 12?

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.


Voter Access

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.


Voter Protections

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.


Miscellaneous

  • 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.

Impact

All eligible voters; elections officials at the local, state, and federal level; the Election Assistance Commission; and the Attorney General.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 12

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) introduced this bill to ensure that all eligible voters have equal access to the ballot, modernize the voter registration system, and eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud:

“The goal of this bill is to make voting access equal, fair, and simple for every American. Democracy is not a state; it is an act. The vigilant action of every member of Congress and every citizen is necessary to ensure that liberty, equality, and justice remain the guiding principles of our democracy. The VEA is just one of the steps we believe must be taken to make sure the vote retains its power as the most transformative, non-violent tool citizens have in our society to make their voices heard.”

Currently this bill has the support of 179 Democratic cosponsors in the House of Representatives.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Kenny Cole)

AKA

Voter Empowerment Act of 2015

Official Title

To modernize voter registration, promote access to voting for individuals with disabilities, protect the ability of individuals to exercise the right to vote in elections for Federal office, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Administration
      Committee on Education and Labor
      Higher Education and Workforce Investment
      Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
      Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Economic Opportunity
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedMarch 19th, 2015
    “We need to make Election Day a federal holiday to increase voters’ ability to participate… We must make early voting an option for voters who work or study and need the flexibility to vote on evenings or weekends… We must automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18 or move to a new state. The burden of registering voters should be on the state, not the individual voter.” [berniesanders.com]
    Like (323)
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    “One thing I focused on… was how we can make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now… in Illinois, a new law allows citizens to register and vote at the polls on Election Day. It also expands early voting, which makes it much easier for working folks and busy parents.” [breitbart.com]
    Like (102)
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    Widespread access to voting rights is at the foundation of a strong, representative democracy.
    Like (12)
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    Voting fraud isn't a problem, voter turnout is. We need to encourage voting by making it easier , not make it more difficult.
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    If you want to win an election, stand on your issues and let every voice be heard, whether it agrees with you or not. It's called democracy.
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    This bill promotes people to go out and vote, and that is exactly what I want to see. I want to see more people being able to register due to the registration process being easier and having voting stations open for early voting.
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    There have been too many attacks on our right to vote. This is a common sense bill that can ensure everyone who is eligible can vote. I worked a job that didn't have early voting and wouldn't let me off work one year. I was so frustrated. I really appreciate early voting and to only offer it in effluent neighborhoods and close down those in economic disadvantaged ones says a lot.
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    Everyone should have access to their polling place. It's only right. Just my opinion
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    My view is more radical. I believe all legally-eligible U.S. citizens should be REQUIRED to cast a vote for representative, senate, governor and president positions. First, national standards for easily comparing candidates on key issues should be created; as well as a secure, technical solution to verify voter identities and enable fast and easy online/mobile vote-casting must be developed.
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    Only Citizens without A Felony have the Right to Vote.
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    A democracy is only as strong as the participation of its members. Therefore, laws that support and ensure voter engagement in turn strengthen our country's democratic process.
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    I recently got off work and went to vote in the primaries only to find that my city hall has closed voting booths at 4pm I don't even get off work until 5
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    Absolutely! The greatest thing about the USA is its democracy and the power of the public vote. There are too many obstacles that (purposely) hinder the power of voting, especially for minorities. The State should be accountable for making sure that its people at least HAVE the power to vote, whether or not they decide to vote. People shouldn't have to go out of their way, or have their right to vote hindered by any means.
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    Democrats want this so they can keep casting votes for dead people. This is fact because the presidents DOJ went after states that wanted to clean up their voter registration database.
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    Voting should be left to the states. The federal government has no Constitutional authority when deciding voter requirements and processes.
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    Bc voters having a greater ability to vote strengthens the democratic process. Anyone in favor of true democracy cannot be against voting day being a national holiday.
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    Our armed forces that are deployed might need better access, but how about making it impossible for dead people and illegal aliens?! Also, there have been instances of people voting multiple times in the same election! Concentrate on preventing VOTER FRAUD!
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    I endorse Bernie sanders and his suggestion to make Election Day a permanent holiday so that everyone can vote
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    Greater access makes it easier for new voters to engage in the process.
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    Internet access registration and voting options would be great
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