WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is heeding President Barack Obama's election night call to "fix" the problems voters faced at the polls this year, by introducing legislation that would reward states for election reform.

Coons' bill, titled the Louis L. Redding Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012, is modeled on Obama's Race to the Top program for education. States that make voting faster and more accessible would be rewarded with federal grants.

Voters in several states this year -- most notably, Florida and Ohio -- stood in extraordinarily long lines at the polls, with some people waiting nine hours. Citizens also dealt with shorter early-voting periods, confusion over whether they needed to present photo ID and reports of uncounted ballots.

In his victory speech on election night, Obama thanked voters who braved these conditions to cast ballots, saying, "Whether you voted for the first time, or waited in line for a very long time -- by the way, we have to fix that."

"[The fact that] it appears that there were tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of Americans who had their right to vote denied or compromised by having to wait in line five, six, seven hours is profoundly concerning and upsetting to me," Coons told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning.

He called it unacceptable that 12 years after the Florida debacle in the 2000 presidential election there are still such widespread problems.

In order to qualify for Coons' challenge grants program, states would need to come up with a comprehensive plan to improve their election processes by:

• Providing flexible registration opportunities, including same-­day registration;
• Providing early voting, at a minimum of 9 of the 10 calendar days preceding an election;
• Providing absentee voting, including no-­excuse absentee voting;
• Providing assistance to voters who do not speak English as a primary language;
• Providing assistance to voters with disabilities, including visual impairment;
• Providing effective access to voting for members of the armed services;
• Providing formal training of election officials, including State and county administrators and volunteers;
• Auditing and reducing waiting times at the poorest performing polling stations; and
• Creating contingency plans for voting in the event of a natural or other disaster.

The size of the grants has not been set. The senator said he hopes to come up with a dollar amount that would be sufficient to encourage real policy innovation and action by states, but not so large that it would burden the federal government at a time of large deficits. The grant program would be administered by the Department of Justice.

One of the biggest challenges for this program might be gaining cooperation from Republican governors, who have turned down federal money for health care and high-speed rail over ideological objections. The governors in Florida and Ohio, for example, have been harsh critics of the federal government and the Justice Department.

"My hope is that accountability to their own voters, their constituents, will encourage governors and electoral commissions and secretaries of state and county elected officials of both parties across the country to take responsible action to deal with the widely reported and very real voter access problems of this last election," said Coons, adding, "I recognize that in many states, this is an issue of state partisan politics, but I think the Department of Justice, ever since the Voting Rights Act, has had a proud history of leading efforts nationally to ensure enfranchisement."

On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) -- from a state that had long lines at the polls -- agreed to sign on as a cosponsor to the FAST Act, according to Coons' office. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) will be introducing the House version.

The bill (see full text below) is named for Louis L. Redding, a prominent civil rights advocate who became the first African American admitted to the Delaware bar in 1929. He was part of the legal team that brought Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court.

Election reform was not a top priority for Obama during his first term. The Election Assistance Commission, which was created in response to voting problems during the 2000 election, currently has no commissioners and no executive director. The Washington Post recently called it a "zombie voting commission."

UPDATE: 1:52 p.m. -- Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) has also introduced legislation to make it easier for individuals to vote, called the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act.

The proposed legislation:

• Requires all states to provide for a minimum of 15 days of early voting in federal elections.
• Requires states to ensure that each voting precinct has sufficient poll workers, voting machines and other resources to ensure that voting lines do not exceed one hour, whether on Election Day or during periods of early voting.
• Requires states to have contingency plans in place to resolve situations in which long lines nevertheless develop.


Read Sen. Coons' legislation:



Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama stands with singer Bruce Springsteen as he arrives to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama, accompanied by singer Bruce Springsteen, waves as he arrive at a campaign event near the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wis., Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama is greeted by onstage by singer Bruce Springsteen as he arrives to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in downtown Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with singer Bruce Springsteen at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in downtown Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Bruce Springsteen

    Singer Bruce Springsteen performs before the start of a campaign event for President Barack Obama near the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wis., Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Joe Biden

    Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking a campaign rally at Heritage Farm Museum at Claude Moore Park, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Sterling , VA. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 in Castle Rock, Colo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his wife Janna arrive at a campaign event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Castle Rock, Colo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Fla. Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Shady Brook Farm, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Morrisville, Pa. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Elizabeth Warren, Bruce Mann

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, left, waves to an audience while standing with her husband, Bruce Mann, at the conclusion of a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Barack Obama,

    President Barack Obama extends his arm and fingers to greet young supporters after speaking at a campaign event at Fifth Third Arena, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters at a Virginia campaign rally at Newport News International Airport, in Newport News, Va., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama arrives to a cheering crowd at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves as fireworks are seen in the distance at a Virginia campaign rally at Newport News International Airport, in Newport News, Va., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama greets a cheering crowd as he arrives at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, left, clasps hands with her husband, Bruce Mann, as U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., center, shakes hands at the conclusion of a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Barack Obama,

    President Barack Obama starts to move to the music of performer Stevie Wonder who was off-stage performing at the end of the campaign event at Fifth Third Arena, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney take the stage at a Pennsylvania campaign rally at Shady Brook Farm, in Morrisville, Pa., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama gives the thumb-up as he finishes speaking at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Women hold up signs spelling "vote" on a stage being prepared for a speech by President Barack Obama at a campaign rally at the Community College of Aurora, in Denver, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney arrive on stage at a Pennsylvania campaign rally at Shady Brook Farm, in Morrisville, Pa., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    United States Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., front, and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, behind left, face reporters before a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • A long line of early voters runs down the block outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections building Sunday evening, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. The women in the front of the line said they had been in line four hours. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, left, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., walk and talk as they arrive at a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Elizabeth Warren

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren addresses an audience during a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. Warren was introduced by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at the rally. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, left, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, walk and talk as they arrive at a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Elizabeth Warren, John Kerry

    Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, left, addresses an audience during a campaign rally at a high school in Braintree, Mass., as U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, applauds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Both Warren and incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., continue their push around the state in the final days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd at a Pennsylvania campaign rally at Shady Brook Farm, in Morrisville, Pa., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he speaks at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Joe Biden

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Rushville Middle School, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Lancaster, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Joe Biden

    Supporters cheer as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Rushville Middle School, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Lancaster, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he leaves the stage after speaking at a campaign event at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Former President Bill Clinton walks through the crowd after speaking at a rally for Barack Obama at Pullen Park in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.The former president has been traveling to several battleground states over the past week to try to stem any Republican tide for Mitt Romney and preserve Obama leads. (AP/Ted Richardson)

  • Former President Bill Clinton, right, arrives at a rally for Barack Obama at Pullen Park in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, after being introduced by former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, left. The former president has been traveling to several battleground states over the past week to try to stem any Republican tide for Mitt Romney and preserve Obama leads. (AP/Ted Richardson)

  • Joe Biden

    A supporter cheers as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally Terra Community College, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Fremont, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Joe Biden

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally Terra Community College, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Fremont, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a Virginia campaign rally at Newport News International Airport, in Newport News, Va., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Paul Ryan

    Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., greets supporters during a campaign event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Castle Rock, Colo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • Paul Ryan

    Supporters cheer as Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Mansfield, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)