Strengthen Democracy Through Early Voting
In the 2016 Presidential election, only 56% of the voting-age population participated. It doesn’t have to be that way. Multiple states have achieved or come close to 70% voter participation, and 7 of the top 10 states for voter participation allow early voting. Early voting gives voters more opportunities to cast their ballot at a time that’s convenient for them.
Voting rights advocates
Good government advocates
Anti-poverty organizations and advocates
Interest groups that benefit from low voter participation
This act shall be known as the Early Voting Act
This act amends the statutes governing voting to allow citizens in STATE to vote in the two weeks leading up to primary and general elections.
(a) If a request is made to vote early by a registered voter in person, the election authority shall issue a ballot for early voting to the voter. The ballot must be voted on the premises of the election authority, except as otherwise provided in this Article, and returned to the election authority.
(b) On the dates for early voting, each election authority shall provide suitable equipment for voting, on the premises of the election authority and any other early voting polling place for use by registered voters who are issued ballots for early voting in accordance with this act.
(c) The election authority must maintain a list for each election of the voters to whom it has issued early ballots. The list must be maintained for each precinct within the election authority’s jurisdiction. Before the opening of the polls on election day, the election authority shall deliver to the judges of election in each precinct the list of registered voters who have voted by early ballot.
(d) An election authority shall establish permanent polling places for early voting at locations throughout its jurisdiction.
-(1) Permanent polling places may include, but are not limited to, a municipal clerk’s office, a township clerk’s office, a road district clerk’s office, or a county or local public agency office. Any person entitled to vote early by personal appearance may do so at any polling place established for early voting.
-(2) During each primary and general election, each election authority shall establish at least one permanent polling place for early voting by personal appearance within each of its largest municipalities within its jurisdiction.
-(3) Each election authority shall establish at least one permanent polling place for early voting per [NUMBER] registered voters in its jurisdiction. None of these permanent polling places shall be located within [NUMBER] miles of each other unless in a municipality of over [NUMBER] people. All population figures shall be determined by the federal census.
(e) The period for early voting by personal appearance begins the 40th day preceding a general primary, consolidated primary, consolidated, or general election and extends through the end of the day before election day.
-(1) Except as otherwise provided by this Section, a permanent polling place for early voting must remain open beginning the 15th day before an election through the end of the day before election day. It must be open at least during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on weekdays, except that beginning 8 days before election day, a permanent polling place for early voting must remain open during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturdays and holidays, and 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays; except that, in addition to the hours required by this subsection, a permanent polling place designated by an election authority under subsections (c), (d), and (e) of Section [X] must remain open for a total of at least 8 hours on any holiday during the early voting period and a total of at least 14 hours on the final weekend during the early voting period.
-(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), an election authority may close an early voting polling place if the building in which the polling place is located has been closed by the State or unit of local government in response to a severe weather emergency or other force majeure. The election authority shall notify the State Board of Elections of any closure and shall make reasonable efforts to provide notice to the public of an alternative location for early voting.
(f) In addition to permanent polling places for early voting, the election authority may establish temporary branch polling places for early voting.
-(1) Voting at a temporary branch polling place may be conducted on any one or more days and during any hours within the period for early voting by personal appearance that are determined by the election authority.
-(2) The schedules for conducting voting do not need to be uniform among the temporary branch polling places.
-(3) The legal rights and remedies which inure to the owner or lessor of private property are not impaired or otherwise affected by the leasing of the property for use as a temporary branch polling place for early voting, except to the extent necessary to conduct early voting at that location.
(g) Upon request by an election authority, a unit of local government shall make the unit’s public buildings within the election authority’s jurisdiction available as permanent or temporary early voting polling places without charge. Availability of a building shall include reasonably necessary time before and after the period early voting is conducted at that building. A unit of local government making its public building available as a permanent or temporary early voting polling place shall ensure that any portion of the building made available is accessible to voters with disabilities and elderly voters.
(h) The election authority shall inform eligible voters in its jurisdiction of the hours and locations for early voting beginning at least one week before the period for early voting begins.
-(1) It shall advertise in locally available media, whether print, television, radio, or online, in order to reach the broadest number of eligible voters in the election authority’s jurisdiction:
–(A) the location of each permanent and temporary polling place for early voting and the precincts served by each location; and
–(B) the dates and hours that early voting will be conducted at each location.
-(2) The election authority shall post a copy of the schedule at any office or other location that is to be used as a polling place for early voting. The schedule must be posted continuously for a period beginning not later than the 10th day before the first day of the period for early voting by personal appearance and ending on the last day of that period.
-(3) The election authority must make copies of the schedule available to the public in reasonable quantities without charge during the period of posting.
-(4) If the election authority maintains a website, it shall make the schedule available on its website.
-(5) No additional permanent polling places for early voting may be established after the schedule is published under this Section. Additional temporary locations may be established after the schedule is published, provided that the location is open to all eligible voters. The location, dates, and hours shall be reported to the State Board of Elections and posted on the election authority’s website.
-(6) At least 10 days before the period for early voting begins, each election authority shall provide the State Board of Elections with a list of all early voting sites and the hours each site will be open.
(i) Early voting shall not differ substantially from voting on election day or by absentee ballot.