A day late because of the snow storm, today President Obama “officially” received the report from the commission he appointed last year to identify “non-partisan” ways to shorten lines at polling
places, promote the efficient conduct of elections, and provide better
access to the polls for all voters.” Or in Obama terms, make sure anyone can vote whether they are eligible or not.
Included in the Report is an examination of long lines at the polls. After extensive interviews with elections officials, voters and academicians, the Commission found that “jurisdictions can solve the problem of long lines through a combination of planning …and the efficient allocation of resources.” The Commission concluded that no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote. The Report examined and is now recommending and making readily available a series of innovative on-line tools, recommendations and best practices to help elections officials prevent the recurrence of long lines in the future. These may be found at the Commission’s website at www.supportthevoter.gov and will be permanently hosted on the site of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project.
“Our aim was to transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters,” said Robert F. Bauer, counsel to President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, counsel to Mitt Romney’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, in a joint statement of the Commission Co-Chairs. “The focus that we and our eight colleagues on the Commission brought to the Report is recognition of the issues and trends in election administration judged from the standpoint of voter expectation and the ways those expectations can and should be met.
Recognizing that having approximately 8,000 different jurisdictions administer elections primarily with volunteers who receive little training makes uniformity challenging, the Report’s other key recommendations include:
- An expansion of online voter registration by the states to enhance both accuracy of the voter rolls and efficiency;
- Having all states update and exchange their voter registration lists to create the most accurate lists possible to increase registration rates, reduce costs, and protect against fraud.
- The expansion of voting before Election Day, recognizing that the majority of states now provide either mail balloting or in-person early voting and that voters are increasingly seeking these options;
- The increased use of schools as polling places, since they are the best-equipped facilities in most jurisdictions, with security concerns met by scheduling an in-service training day for students and teachers on Election Day;
- Recognizing and addressing the impending crisis in voting technology as machines bought 10 years ago with post-2000 federal funds wear out and require replacement with no federal appropriations on the horizon;
- To usher in this needed next generation of equipment, reforming the standards and certification process to allow innovation and the adoption of widely available and significantly less expensive off-the-shelf technologies and “software-only” solutions;
- Improving the ability of military and overseas voters to access ballots and other voting materials through the states’ websites;
- The increased use of electronic pollbooks for greater accuracy and efficiency;
- Assuring that polling places are accessible to all voters, are located close to where voters live and are designed to function smoothly;
- Increasing and enhancing training and recruitment of poll workers, in the recognition that volunteer poll workers are voters’ primary source of contact during the actual voting process;
- Having jurisdictions form advisory groups to address the needs of voters with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency; and
- Collecting election data on a uniform basis to enable enhanced analysis to improve the voter experience.
Some of the ideas, such as sharing voter roles between stats are good ones. Conveniently ignored however, are ideas to make sure the online registration is limited to people who are eligible to vote, any examination of whether early voting affects the voting process as voters will make their choice without all the available information. How to insure that ballots by mail are filled by the eligible voters and some sort of national voter ID to insure the people who show up to vote are the same people registered.