ACLU Says Ney-Hoyer Voting Reform Legislation Insufficient to Prevent Repeat of 2000 Election Problems

December 5, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today said that recently introduced House election reform legislation is insufficient to establish adequate voting rights protections to prevent any recurrence of the problems that plagued the 2000 presidential elections.

“Unfortunately, this bill isn’t sufficient to fix the very serious voting rights problems in America,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Free and equitable elections are at the very heart of our political system. Legislation that allows states to opt out of crucial federal standards is not good enough.”

To ensure fair and accurate elections, the ACLU said, legislation must fully fund certain modest federal standards to guarantee uniformity in voting equipment, accessibility and accuracy in the accounting of votes. The new House bill (HR 3295), introduced by Reps. Bob Ney, R-OH, and Steny Hoyer, D-MD, fails that test. The Ney-Hoyer legislation was the subject of a hearing this afternoon by the full House Judiciary Committee.

The ACLU’s Warren pointed to a number of inadequacies in the Ney-Hoyer bill, including an opt-out provision that would allow any state to easily avoid complying with suggested federal standards to address the gross inconsistencies in election quality from state to state. The bill would also be almost entirely ineffective in addressing the serious problems facing language minorities and persons with disabilities in casting their ballots and fails to provide for much needed voter education both on how to actually vote and on the constitutional right to vote.

In addition, Warren said that the Ney-Hoyer bill would result in many eligible and properly registered voters being dropped from the rolls because of poor safeguards against voters being purged from voting rolls. Under the legislation, voters would be disqualified from casting their ballots if they fail to vote in just one federal election and fail to respond to a mailed notice; this provision is contrary to current law and would inordinately affect voters whose mail delivery service is of lesser quality. The ACLU has long favored a system of provisional voting, which would allow voters a chance to correct any erroneous registration information at the polling station and then vote.

The ACLU did express its strong support, however, for the original Dodd-Daschle election reform bill (S 565), which would, if passed, be the most significant bolstering of American voting rights in four decades.

“Our next set of federal elections are fast approaching and promise to be some of the closest and most crucial this country has ever seen,” Warren said. “The passage of real and comprehensive election reform legislation now is absolutely essential to our democracy.”

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