Langevin and Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Election Reform Legislation

Nov 14, 2001
(Washington, D.C.)–Former Rhode Island Secretary of State and current Congressman Jim Langevin joined both his Republican and Democratic colleagues to introduce the Help America Vote Act, bipartisan election reform legislation that was drafted after a year's worth of consultation and hearings.  

Based in part on language included in Langevin’s Make Every Vote Count Act (H.R. 1482), the bill would ensure that all votes are accurately counted by funding the purchase of voting equipment which prevents undervotes and overvotes.  In addition, Langevin’s Voting Opportunity through Technology and Education (VOTE) Act (H.R. 1151) called for the creation of accessibility standards for polling places and voting equipment, and similar provisions are included in the Help America Vote Act.

 “Congress must not ignore the irregularities in our nation’s electoral system, rather we must set minimum voting standards to preserve the foundations of democracy,” said Congressman Langevin.  “Now more than ever, it is critical that our nation’s elected officials are chosen accurately and without dispute.  As our nation strengthens its resolve, we must not allow faulty, antiquated equipment to tamper with the democratic process."

The Help America Vote Act authorizes $2.65 billion for election reform efforts, including $400 million in one-time payments to buy out punch card machines and $2.25 billion over three years for equipment upgrades, voter registration, accessibility, voter education and poll worker training, as well as other improvement initiatives.

The bipartisan legislation also establishes minimum standards for state election systems by requiring a statewide voter registration system and provisional voting and by mandating that new equipment purchased with federal funds must be provide access to disabled voters.  The legislation also calls for increased safeguards for military and overseas voters.  

 “This legislation is essential to ensure that Rhode Island receives the necessary funding to enact real improvements to our state's electoral procedures,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Edward Inman.  “Eight months ago, I met with all four members of Rhode Island Congressional delegation, and asked the to fight for language in the bill that would protect states, like ours, that did the right thing by investing early in accurate and modern voting equipment.”

As Secretary of State, Langevin was instrumental in upgrading Rhode Island's election system to a state of the art model for other states to emulate.

When Langevin was elected Secretary of State of Rhode Island, it had the oldest voting equipment in the nation.  Beginning in 1993, as a state Representative and then as Secretary of State, he worked with his colleagues in the legislature, the State Board of Elections, local canvassing authorities and the public to investigate voting problems throughout the state and develop an effective resolution.  

By May of 1994, a Commission reported the need to replace antiquated Shoup lever voting machines with optical scan equipment because it would be cost-effective, help increase voter participation, and provide faster, more accurate tabulation of votes.  By the end of 1996, the procurement process began and by the September 1997 local primary elections, the optical scan equipment was in place.  In both the 1998 and 2000 elections, these machines were in full operation throughout the state.

In Congress, Langevin has continued his efforts to improve the accuracy of our voting system by introducing three pieces of legislation and sponsoring a demonstration for Members of Congress to highlight the various voting technologies used throughout the country.  Additionally, he helped craft the language in today's bipartisan bill to establish national standards for the accessibility of voting equipment and polling places. 

“There is a clear need for election reform in our nation and the Help America Vote Act is our best chance of preserving and building upon our 225 year history of Democratic government,” added Langevin.  “Congress should address this issue swiftly, so that we may continue our work to provide our nation with the resources it needs to fight terrorism and protect freedom and liberty.”

"I want to specifically thank Congressman Langevin for taking our case to Congressman Hoyer,” Inman added.  “When this proposal becomes law, Rhode Island will receive its due share of federal funding, and allow us to clean up the voting lists, improve poll worker training and pay, as well as strengthen our voter outreach initiatives."