Nelson backing federal elections proposal capping voting waits at one hourby Dara Kam | February 12th, 2013
Reacting to Floridians who stood in line for up to eight hours before casting their ballots last year, Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is pushing a measure that would set a national goal of a maximum of a one-hour wait at any polling place during federal elections.
Nelson is co-sponsoring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s “LINE, or Lines Interfere with National Elections act, filed by the California Democrat last year in reaction to long lines in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.
In Palm Beach County, some voters waited more than seven hours at the Lantana Road Branch Library on the last day of early voting.
“In the interest of fairness and to avoid undermining the credibility of our elections, we should be making voting more convenient, not more difficult,” Nelson said in a press release today. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise a basic right, not in a Democracy like ours.”
President Obama is expected to highlight the need to address voting problems in his State of the Union address tonight, where a 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote will be a guest of the First Lady.
In his inaugural address, the president said: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”
The Boxer bill would require the U.S. attorney general to issue new national standards by Jan. 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers and other election resources necessary to hold federal elections. And it would require that minimum standards take into account the number of eligible voters, recent voter turnout, the number of new voter registrations, Census data for each polling place and the socio-economic makeup of the voting population.
In 2011, the GOP-dominated legislature shortened the early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend the number of early voting hours. Former GOP officials, including Crist (who is now a Democrat) said the law was intentionally designed to inhibit Democratic turnout in 2012.