Federal election legislation

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Proposed federal legislation - House

110th Congress

  • H.R. 5036-110, the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Bill, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt; would reimburse state and local jurisdictions that elect to convert to paper ballot voting systems, provide emergency paper ballots, and/or conduct audits by hand counts in November 2008
  • H.R. 1381-110, the "Count Every Vote Act of 2007", introduced by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio on March 7, 2007; amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 with respect to: (1) voter verification and mandatory auditing by state officials; (2) provisional ballots and requirements for casting and counting them; (3) shortening of voter wait lines; (4) equitable allocation of voting systems, poll workers, and election resources; (5) absentee balloting; (6) training of poll workers; (7) standards for purging voters; (8) an election day registration grant program; (9) standards for early voting; (10) voter registration and identification; (11) prohibition of deceptive practices and certain campaign activities; (12) voting rights of individuals convicted of criminal offenses; (13) election day as a public holiday; and (14) the Election Assistance Commission.
  • H.R. 811-110, the bill introduced by Rep. Rush Holt to supersede H.R. 550

109th Congress and earlier

  • H.R. 6200 to amend HAVA to conduct Presidential elections on hand-counted paper ballots sponsor: Kucinich, 20 cosponsors as of November 16, 2006
  • H.R. 4844, the National Voter ID Act, which would essentially mandate passports in order to vote (see NC Voter's dKos diary Proposed Voter ID Act Pulls Rug Out From Seniors); passed by the House
  • (now obsolete; superseded by H.R. 811) H.R. 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005 Rep. Rush Holt's bill (strongly endorsed by VerifiedVoting.org; see also georgia10's October 31, 2006 diary, cos's April 13, 2006 diary, and the H.R.550 page)
  • Electoral Fairness Act of 2006 (H.R. 4989) introduced by Rush Holt (D-NJ) on March 16, 2006; addresses inequities in equipment distribution and polling place waiting times (described on a page on Rep. Holt's site) (no cosponsors as of December 27, 2006)

Proposed federal legislation - Senate

110th Congress

  • S. 804-110; related to H.R. 1381-110; sponsor: Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (110th Congress); Count Every Vote Act of 2005 - Amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 with respect to : (1) voter verification and mandatory auditing by state officials; (2) provisional ballots and requirements for casting and counting them; (3) shortening of voter wait lines; (4) equitable allocation of voting systems, poll workers, and election resources; (5) absentee balloting; (6) training of poll workers; (7) standards for purging voters; (8) an election day registration grant program; (9) standards for early voting; (10) voter registration and identification; (11) prohibition of deceptive practices and certain campaign activities; (12) voting rights of individuals convicted of criminal offenses; and (13) the Election Assistance Commission; makes appropriations to carry out this Act; Federal Election Day Act of 2007 - amends federal civil service to provide for federal election day as a public holiday.
  • S. 559-110 sponsor: Bill Nelson of Florida (110th Congress) Daily Kos diary on S. 559

109th Congress and earlier

  • S. 1975, a bill to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections sponsor: Barack Obama of Illinois; prescribes penalty for knowingly deceiving voters as to time and place for voting; related bill is H.R. 4463; introduced November 8, 2005; 4 cosponsors as of December 12, 2005; no change beyond that date

Proposed federal legislation - House and Senate

Existing federal legislation

Federal legislation governing elections includes:

  • the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which barred unequal application of voter registration requirements
  • the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which:
    • outlawed the requirement that would-be voters in the United States take literacy tests to qualify to register to vote
    • provided for federal registration of voters -- instead of state or local voter registration which had often been denied to minorities and poor voters -- in areas that had less than 50% of eligible minority voters registered
    • provided for DOJ oversight over registration, and required DOJ approval for any change in voting law in certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination
  • the 1969 Federal Contested Election Act
  • the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act
  • the 1993 National Voter Registration Act ("Motor Voter Act")
  • the 2002 Help America Vote Act ("HAVA")

These acts have been met with controversy. Some have argued against ceding state power over voting to the federal government on the grounds that doing so was antithetical to the rights of local people to govern themselves. Others have argued that the federal government would weaken state laws that protected voting rights. Still others have claimed that the consolidation of power and voting system uniformity at a higher level facilitates election fraud.

In 2006, Republicans from Southern districts singled out by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 threatened to prevent its extension. Their argument was that these districts no longer practice the discrimination they did twenty years earlier. However, the extension passed over their objections. Some have made the point that the Voting Rights Act could have been used to address districts with poor records of voting rights today, such as in Ohio. However, this argument never gained prominence.

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