Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) has now filed a U.S. House version of the Emergency Paper Ballot legislation introduced yesterday by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) in the Senate.
Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) joined the Senate legislation as co-sponsors late last evening.
Additionally, Kerry and Feingold both have now co-sponsored and introduced a new "Sense of the Senate Resolution" calling on States around the country to act immediately to put back-up plans in place to have "Emergency Paper Ballots" at the polling places this November to avoid voters being turned away when voting machines fail to work. Thousands, so far this year, have been turned away in one state primary after another due to machine malfunction or unavailability.
The language in the Holt bill filed in the House late last night is identical to the bill filed by Boxer, except that it notes, explicitly, that the "contigency paper ballots" the Federal government will reimburse states for are to be counted as regular ballots --- not as provisional ballots which often go completely uncounted, and must be vetted first to determine a voter's registration status.
Feingold and Kerry issued a press release today (posted in full at the end of this article) calling on Congress to act immediately in the face of what they describe as "a national disgrace," in reference to voters being turned away at the polling place for lack of voting system on which to vote.
Holt's bill, which can be downloaded here [PDF], differs from the Senate bill by stating that jurisdictions who wish to reimbursed by the Federal government for such contingency paper ballots must treat "each such contingency paper ballot cast by a voter as a regular ballot cast in the election and counts it accordingly, and does not treat it as a provisional ballot."
Kerry and Feingold, who are now co-sponsors of the Boxer/Dodd Senate bill filed yesterday, also issued a non-binding "Sense of the Senate" resolution this morning. Pamela Leavy originally reported the news earlier today at Democratic Daily.
In a press release issued earlier along with that resolution today, Feingold said, "We cannot allow the American people to lose faith in the most fundamental aspect of our democratic system the right to vote."
He added, "Some of the problems we saw this year, like voters in Maryland being told to come back later because the machines weren’t working, are simply unacceptable. A back-up plan as simple as having emergency paper ballots on hand is essential to preventing election day disasters."
Kerry, who has been criticized for not taking enough action to ensure that votes were counted accurately, or at all, in Ohio after the 2004 Presidential Election, had even stronger words, calling the lack of action by Congress and the White House on these matters, "a disgrace" and a "national scandal".
"It’s a disgrace that a Congress and an Administration which talks about exporting democracy around the world ignores the challenges of our own democracy right here at home," says Kerry in this morning's news release. "We have seen American citizens disenfranchised in our elections for the simple reason that no effective back up system was in place. That’s a national scandal."
Kerry called for "emergency action" and points to the recent meltdown in Maryland's September 12th primary election, which resulted in the Republican Governor there, calling for a similar measure to scrap the machines, and allow all voters in the state to use paper ballots this November.
"[H]ere we are, 42 days away from another election," Kerry said, "and Congress has again dragged its feet even after we mobilized 35,000 citizens to demand a hearing for our Count Every Vote Act, even after what we saw just this month in Montgomery County [Maryland]. We need emergency action now. That is why I am co-sponsoring the Dodd-Boxer legislation to provide emergency paper ballots and that is why Russ Feingold and I are introducing our resolution today demanding election day back-up plans."
"We have a duty to ensure that no citizen will be denied the right to vote in 2006," Kerry concluded.
The BRAD BLOG began the call for Emergency Paper Ballot legislation just over a week ago.
The SoS Project has set up a page where citizens can contact Congress Members to demand they pass this legislation in the few days left before breaking for the Election Recess.
The full text of the Feingold/Kerry press release follows...