Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Introduces Bill to Expand Access to Voting

February 1, 2017
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today introduced the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, which would ensure that every state allows citizens to vote for at least two weeks prior to federal elections and require that states provide adequate poll workers and other resources to prevent wait times of longer than one hour.

“This is a scary time for voting rights in our country,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “We are witnessing an assault on voting rights the likes of which our nation has not seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The President is alleging, without evidence, that there is widespread voter fraud in our country, which is just another ‘alternative fact.’ And Attorney General Nominee Senator Jeff Sessions, who was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines, has a very troubling record on voting rights.”

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy.  It is sacred.  Yet, sadly, we have an ugly history in this nation of efforts to limit people’s ability to access this constitutional right, especially when attempted to be accessed by African Americans. We need to make it easier for people to vote, not harder. That’s why I have introduced the SIMPLE Voting Act to ensure that every American can exercise their right to vote conveniently and without burdensome wait times.”

The SIMPLE Voting Act would:

  • Require states to allow early voting for federal elections for at least two weeks prior to election day;
  • Require, to the greatest extent possible, that polling locations are within walking distance of a stop on a public transportation route;
  • Require sufficient voting system, poll workers and other election resources;
  • Require that wait times are fair and equitable for all voters across a state and that no one be required to wait longer than 1 hour to cast a ballot at a polling place
  • Require that all provisional ballots cast by eligible voters be counted

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2016, 14 states had new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election, including strict voter ID requirements, early voting cutbacks and voter registration restrictions. Overall, 20 states have implemented new voting restrictions since 2010.  

Cosponsors of the SIMPLE Voting Act include: Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-07), Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-22), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05), Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03), Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02), Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41), Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)