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Plan would cut time waiting to vote

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Americans stood in line for hours to vote in the November election. Two Democratic senators want to prevent that from happening again.

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California plan to introduce The LINE Act (for Lines Interfere with National Elections), which calls for national standards for polling sites. The goal is to ensure that no voter waits longer than an hour to cast a ballot.

“In the interest of fairness and to avoid undermining the credibility of our elections, we should be making voting more convenient, not more difficult,” Nelson said on Tuesday. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise a basic right, not in a democracy like ours.”

The measure would require the attorney general, in consultation with the Election Assistance Commission, to issue standards by Jan. 1, 2014, regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers and other resources needed on Election Day and during early voting periods to ensure waiting times don't exceed an hour.

The bill also would require states where voters endured long lines to implement remedial plans to fix the problems before the next federal election. States where a “substantial” number of voters waited longer than 90 minutes to vote in 2012 would have to comply with a remedial plan to ensure voters would not face similar delays in the future.

A news release announcing the proposal doesn't define “substantial.” But it's bound to apply to Nelson's home state of Florida, where the average voter waited about 45 minutes on Election Day, according to data analyzed by Charles Stewart, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

News reports indicated some people waited as long as seven hours to vote on Election Day.

Florida had the longest average wait time, followed by the District of Columbia (34 minutes), Maryland (33 minutes) and Virginia (26 minutes), according to Stewart.

States with the shortest average wait times were Vermont (two minutes), Maine (four minutes), and Alaska (four minutes).

The national average wait time was 13 minutes on Election Day and 20 minutes on early voting days, Stewart's data indicated. It showed that minorities had substantially longer waits, on average, than whites.

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