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Cartoon of voters queued up to cast ballots
The MacArthur Foundation commissioned a poll asking Americans who cast ballots in the general election this year whether they support the setting of national standards for voting. A super-majority—88 percent—said yes. In a Tuesday night speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library that focused heavily on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and current challenges to it, Attorney General Eric Holder referenced the MacArthur poll:
That’s why it is important for national leaders, academic experts, and members of the public to engage in a frank, thorough, and inclusive discussion about how our election systems can be made stronger and more accessible. [...]

Fortunately, modern technology provides ways to address many of the problems that impede the efficient administration of elections, and to bring our elections into the 21st century. For example, by creating a system of automatic, portable registration—in which government officials use existing databases, with appropriate privacy protections, to automatically register every eligible voter in America and enable their registration to move when they do, rather the current system in which voters must navigate complicated and often-changing voter registration rules—we could not only improve the integrity of our elections, but save precious taxpayer resources [...]

Election officials, wherever they are found, should also always be striving to administer elections more efficiently and more fairly. This means taking steps to address long lines at polling places—and ensuring that every polling place has an adequate number of voting machines. We must acknowledge that giving our fellow citizens access to the voting booth for longer hours and over additional days will enable more of them to cast their ballots without unduly interfering with the work or family obligations that so many have. [...] And we must also acknowledge that which is historically true: that the arc of American history has bent towards expanding the franchise. This generation must be true to that more inclusive history. This is our time; it is not a time to restrict the franchise.

The problem, as was well documented by numerous parties spotlighting the war on voters, is that Republican officials— governors, state legislators, secretaries of state—have eagerly sought ways to do exactly that: Restrict the franchise for partisan advantage. These officials and the advocacy organizations that goad them into action are bent on keeping minorities and the poor from voting for a simple reason. When they do, Republican candidates and ideas benefit. The anti-democratic nature of the obstacles they erect bothers them not at all. Morality for the party whose adherents spout zillions of pious words on the subject doesn't matter when power is at stake.

Holder did not endorse any particular legislation in his speech, and a Justice Department spokeswoman told Ryan J. Reilly afterward that the attorney general was just saying such standards are "worth consideration."

One such piece of legislation was introduced earlier this month by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. It's the LINE Act (Lines Interfere with National Elections Act). It would mandate that voters not have to queue up for more than one hour waiting to cast their ballots in federal elections. It would require the attorney general to issue new national standards by Jan. 1, 2014. Included in the mandate would be an adequate number of voting machines, election workers and other relevant resources both on Election Day and for early voting periods.

That proposed act could use a nickname. Call it the Lloyd Blankfein Standing-in-Line Law. When the CEO of Goldman Sachs found himself having to wait at his Manhattan precinct while pollworkers fixed some glitches, he stepped out of the queue and went to the office. The test for setting a standard for standing in line to vote ought to be: How long would a Blankfein have to wait?

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 01:09 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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