12.12.01

CONGRESSWOMAN BARBARA LEE SUPPORTS ELECTION REFORM

Washington, DC B Congresswoman Lee today supported House passage by a vote of 363-63, H.R. 3295, the Help America Vote Act, which begins to reform the nation=s electoral system in response to problems identified during the 2000 presidential elections.

The bill authorizes $2.65 billion over three years to recruit and train poll workers, improve the accuracy of voting registration lists, and enhance accessibility for people with disabilities. Included in the funding is a one-time payment of $400 million to states or counties to replace punch-card voting systems or upgrade voting equipment. H.R. 3295 requires states to adopt minimum standards for voting, including the creation of statewide voter registration lists linked to local precincts, a uniform definition of what constitutes a vote and provisional ballots to allow voters whose names don=t appear on voter registration lists to cast a ballot that would be counted later if their registration was later verified.

AOne of the main reasons I voted in favor of H.R. 3295 is that the bill provides $400 million to replace the outdated, unfair punch-card voting machines,@ said Lee. AAlameda County uses these machines, but wants to upgrade to more advanced, easy-to-use voting machines. The funding included in this bill will help Alameda County and other jurisdictions throughout the nation get rid of the much-reviled chads once and for all.@

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) has introduced S. 565 in the Senate that is identical to H.R. 1170 introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and co-sponsored by Congresswoman Lee. These bills permit voters to verify their vote on a ballot before it is cast and counted and correct any voting errors prior to casting and counting. It requires voting systems to be accessible for individuals with disabilities and other individuals with special needs, and provide the same opportunity of privacy and independence. It also requires that all voting systems provide assistance to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language. The Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Justice would oversee enforcement of the law.

AI am extremely disappointed that provisions included in the Conyers bill, which I strongly support, were not included in H.R. 3295 nor were allowed to be offered as amendments,@ said Lee. AThe legislation that is sent to the president must contain provisions included in the Conyers bill, and it is my hope that the Senate will move to pass a stronger bill this year.@

AThe bill passed today will serve as a stepping stone to true electoral reform,@ said Lee. ADemocracy is at a crossroads, and when Congress returns next year, we must fight tirelessly to build upon the election reforms in H.R. 3295. We must ensure that no voter is ever again disenfranchised from our democratic process.@

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