A new House bill unveiled on Thursday by Congress Member Dan Goldman (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) seeks to make voting easier by requiring a 14-day early voting period nationally and making polling locations more accessible.
The legislation, named the “Early Voting Act,” would establish a national minimum 14-day early voting period, which would include weekends, and require polling sites to stay open for at least 10 hours a day during each day of early voting. They would also have to allow voting for some time before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
States have the ability to expand on the early voting day and hour minimums in the bill.
Goldman — a former federal prosecutor who served as lead counsel in ex-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment — unveiled the bill during a news conference at the National Action Network’s Harlem headquarters on Feb. 23.
“The Early Voting Act will make federal elections uniform across the country, no matter if you are rich or poor, white brown or Black, Democrat or Republican, who are living in urban neighborhoods or rural farmland,” Goldman said. “These provisions are all designed to ensure that voting is as easy as possible so that all Americans, regardless of race or political leanings can gain access to the ballot.”
The Congress member was joined by Reverend Al Sharpton — founder and president of the National Action Network; Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP in New York; and Jasleen Singh, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.
“It is significant to us in the civil rights community that Congressman Dan Goldman has decided to introduce as his first bill in Congress, something that strikes to the heart of American democracy,” Sharpton said. “The threat to voting rights is real. The threat to voting rights is not something that we can fear in the long run. It is immediate. And it is the core of civil rights in this country.”
The legislation would also stipulate that state elections officials consider several factors regarding the accessibility of early polling sites when choosing the locations. That includes choosing sites that are close to public transit, in rural areas and on college campuses.
“Setting a baseline national standard for voting as the early voting Act does is essential for protecting the freedom to vote in this country,” Singh said. “And while several states have recently expanded access to early voting, other state legislatures have taken steps in the opposite direction.”
While there’s been voter suppression in the U.S. since its inception, Goldman said, the modern Republican party’s attempts to limit voting access — in the name of preventing election fraud — has added new urgency to the fight against it.
For instance, Goldman said, in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, when Trump falsely claimed that President Joe Biden only won because of massive voter fraud, Republican governors and state legislators across the country have moved to limit polling sites in urban areas and pushed to give state legislatures more power in deciding elections.
“The 2020 election was by all accounts the safest election in our history to that point,” Goldman said. “Yet conspiracy theorists on the right, including our former president, peddled misinformation about how ballots were counted in an attempt to undermine confidence in the results. These lies about how ballots are counted, or the fictional notion of voter fraud, which does not exist in any way that affects elections, forms the basis for many of the authoritarian power grabs that we’re witnessing across the nation.”
That’s why the bill also includes a provision requiring early-voting ballots to be processed and counted before election night, Goldman said, so election results will be tallied more quickly and there’ll be less time for misinformation about voter fraud to spread.
The pol said Thursday that, while getting voting rights legislation through a GOP-controlled House will be no easy task, he’s confident that the bill will transcend partisan politics.
“I do hope that we will find allies across the aisle,” he said. “This is not a partisan bill. We are not trying to pass a bill that allows Democrats to vote and not Republicans. This bill is simply designed to give every American regardless of their background, regardless of their political affiliation, access to the ballot box, and that should be a bipartisan issue.”