Wyden and Merkley Introduce Bill To End Long, Unreasonable Lines at Polling Places and Restore Voting Rights

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced legislation to end hours-long lines at polling places that suppress hundreds of thousands of Americans’ votes, and to restore our Constitutional rights to vote in free and fair elections.

Studies estimate that nearly 3 million voters waited more than 30 minutes to vote in 2018, and that more than 500,000 Americans were denied the ability to vote because of long lines, with Black and Hispanic communities disproportionately impacted.

The People Over Long Lines (POLL) Act would force state and local governments to end these forms of voter suppression. The bill requires states to file public plans detailing how they will ensure voters can cast ballots with waiting times of less than 30 minutes and require audits by the Election Assistance Commission to determine how many voters face longer waits. The bill includes $500 million to help states reduce voter wait times.

“Voting shouldn’t be a war of attrition. It is a national disgrace that millions of working Americans, seniors and parents are forced to stand in line for hours just to exercise their God-given right to vote,” Wyden said. “The POLL Act ensures that states are planning ahead so people can cast their ballots quickly, and holds officials accountable for unreasonably long lines.”

“Especially during a global pandemic, no American should be forced to stand in a long line for hours on end to cast their ballot,” said Merkley. “Voting should be accessible, quick, and easy for all. We need to make sure states and local election administrators know that anything less is an unacceptable assault on one of our most sacred constitutional rights.”

The POLL Act would also create a private right of action of $50 for voters forced to wait for longer than 30 minutes, with an additional $50 for every hour after that. Penalties would increase if a court determines long lines were the result of intentional voter suppression or reckless disregard for election plans. 

It is supported by leading voting rights groups, including Stand Up America, Demand Progress, Voter Protection Corps and Fair Fight Action.

Wyden has been a national leader in the fight to make voting more accessible and secure, introducing legislation every congress since 2006 to allow all Americans to vote by mail, and pushing Congress to defend elections against foreign hackers and other interference

Read a summary of the bill here and the bill text here.

A web version of this release is here.