April 11, 2002
Joan Claybrook Statement on Senate Passage
of Election Reform Bill
Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook released the following statement this afternoon following the Senate?s 99-1 vote approving the Martin Luther King Jr. Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2002 (S. 565):
“This is a historic step toward ensuring that millions more Americans will vote and have their votes counted. If enacted, the legislation would sound the death knell for voting machines that betray voters, registration lists that omit eligible voters while including duplicated or deceased ones, and polling places and polls that are inaccessible to those with disabilities or limited proficiency in English. This bill would provide the resources ($3.5 billion over five years) to ensure that the 2000 presidential election fiasco (in which an estimated 6 million votes were lost) never happens again. Senators Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) deserve congratulations for their long effort to achieve these important reforms.
“Nevertheless, there are a number of serious flaws in the Senate bill, which must be addressed in an upcoming conference with the House of Representatives. The infamous ?photo ID? provision, mandating burdensome photo/document identification of millions of first-time voters, has been modified but still threatens to exclude thousands of eligible voters. It must be further improved to ensure that minorities, students and the disabled who lack drivers? licenses or are new residents will not be discriminated against. An indefensible ?safe harbor? provision enables states to escape enforcement of deadlines for national voting standards until 2010 ? five elections from now. And protection of the enfranchising guarantees of the Motor Voter Law is not included.
“Still, S.565 is, in general, a strong and well-targeted bill. It is vastly superior to the House?s Ney-Hoyer legislation, which features weak or non-existent national voting standards, dubious federal enforcement, and poor targeting of its $2.65 billion in funds for various ?voting system improvements.? A House-Senate Conference should convene soon and give the country the strong and inclusive voting reforms it sorely needs.”
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