Summary: The Voter Protection Act bans voter intimidation and voter suppression, establishes a Voter’s Bill of Rights, and requires the creation of a Manual of Election Procedures.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Voter Protection Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:
1. Recent elections have exposed serious flaws in our nation’s voting systems. Across the nation, millions of registered voters who wanted to vote were turned away or discouraged from voting due to voter intimidation and suppression tactics, as well as through communications failures and mistakes.
2. In [State], as many as XX registered voters were discouraged from voting in the last General Election.
3. In order to protect the right to vote for all its citizens, the state must ban voter intimidation and voter suppression, establish a Voter’s Bill of Rights, and provide election officials and voters a Manual of Election Procedures.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect and enhance the most basic right in a democracy—that all qualified adults are guaranteed the right to vote.
SECTION 3. VOTER PROTECTION
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:
1. “Board” means the State [Board of Election Supervisors]. (NOTE: Where appropriate, the Secretary of State’s office can be designated as the administering agency.)
2. “Election” means any federal, state or local election held in the state.
3. “Local election supervisor” means a person or group of persons directing the conduct of elections for any city or county.
4. “Election official” means a person or group of persons directing the conduct of elections at the precinct, county or statewide level.
(B) VOTER INTIMIDATION AND SUPPRESSION
1. Voter Intimidation. A person is guilty of voter intimidation if he or she uses or threatens force, violence or any tactic of coercion or intimidation to induce or compel any other person to:
a. Vote or refrain from voting;
b. Vote or refrain from voting for any particular candidate or ballot measure; or
c. Refrain from registering to vote.
2. Voter Suppression. A person is guilty of voter suppression if he or she knowingly attempts to prevent or deter another person from voting or registering to vote based on fraudulent, deceptive or spurious grounds or information. Voter suppression includes:
a. Challenging another person’s right to register or vote based on knowingly false information;
b. Attempting to induce another person to refrain from registering or voting by providing that person with knowingly false information; or
c. Attempting to induce another person to refrain from registering or voting at the proper place or time by providing that person with knowingly false information about the date, time, place or manner of the election.
(C) VOTER’S BILL OF RIGHTS
1. Creation and Posting of Voter’s Bill of Rights. Local election supervisors must post a Voter’s Bill of Rights at every polling place, include it with every distribution of official sample ballots, and offer it to voters at polling places, in accordance with procedures approved by the Board. The text of this document will be:
“VOTER’S BILL OF RIGHTS
Every registered voter in this state has the right to:
1. Inspect a sample ballot before voting.
2. Cast a ballot if he or she is in line when the polls are closing.
3. Ask for and receive assistance in voting, including assistance in languages other than English where required by federal or state law.
4. Receive a replacement ballot if he or she makes a mistake prior to the ballot being cast.
5. Cast a provisional ballot if his or her eligibility to vote is in question.
6. Vote free from coercion or intimidation by election officials or any other person.
7. Cast a ballot using voting equipment that accurately counts all votes.”
2. Language Minorities. In any political subdivision or precinct where federal or state law requires the ballot to be made available in a language other than English, the Voter’s Bill of Rights will also be made available in such language or languages.
(D) MANUAL OF ELECTION PROCEDURES
The Board will create a manual of uniform polling place procedures and adopt the manual by regulation. Local election supervisors will ensure that the manuals are available in hard copy or electronic form at every precinct in the supervisors’ jurisdictions on Election Day. The manual will guide local election officials in the proper implementation of election laws and procedures. The manual will be indexed by subject and written in clear, unambiguous language. The manual will provide specific examples of common problems encountered at the polls on Election Day, and detail specific procedures for resolving those problems. The manual will include, but not be limited to, the following:
a. Regulations governing solicitation by individuals and groups at the polling place.
b. Procedures to be followed with respect to voters whose names are not on the precinct register.
c. Proper operation of the voting system.
d. Ballot handling procedures.
e. Procedures governing spoiled ballots.
f. Procedures to be followed after the polls close.
g. Rights of voters at the polls.
h. Procedures for handling emergency situations.
i. Procedures for handling and processing provisional ballots.
j. Security procedures.
1. Whoever commits voter intimidation or conspires to commit voter intimidation will be guilty of a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
2. Whoever commits voter suppression or conspires to commit voter suppression will be guilty of a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
3. Any person who willfully violates any other part of this section will be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
4. The Board will promulgate regulations necessary to enforce this section.
5. In addition to criminal and regulatory sanctions, this section may be enforced by a private cause of action under [appropriate section of state statutes]. In a successful action, the court shall award the plaintiff costs and attorney’s fees.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Act shall take effect on July 1, 20XX.