Panel Recommends Easier Access to Voting

Sees better technology, early voting as solutions

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Carolyn Kaster / AP

From left: U.S. President Barack Obama, Robert Bauer, Vice President Joe Biden, and Benjamin Ginsberg and other members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22, 2014.

A presidential commission on voting recommended easing access to the polls Wednesday, through increasing use of technology and early voting before Election Day.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a bipartisan 10-member group that has spent the last six months examining the problems voters face at the polls, also said that problems like long lines at polling stations, which left people waiting for hours in some states in 2012, could be fixed through “combination of planning and the efficient allocation of resources.” No voter, the commission said, should have to wait longer than 30 minutes to vote.

Members of the commission met Wednesday with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. Elections are administered by states, so the potential for substantial reform in voting policy is limited without cooperation from Congress or the states—unlikely in the current political climate.

“Our aim was to transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters,” the commission co-chairs Robert Bauer, a lawyer for Obama’s campaigns, and Benjamin Ginsberg, a lawyer for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, said in a joint statement.

Obama issued an executive order forming the commission last year.

“I think all of us share the belief that, regardless of party affiliation, that our democracy demands that our citizens can participate in a smooth and effective way,” Obama said Wednesday.

The recommendations focus partly on the impact improved technology can have on the voting process, such as using electronic poll books, improving access to voter information on states’ websites for voters overseas and in the military, and easing the process of updating and replacing old voting equipment.

One key recommendation was that schools continue to serve as polling places. Some districts have expressed security concerns about that role in the wake of high profile school shootings, but the commission said schools remain ideal places to cast a ballot because they are accessible to people with disabilities and often located near voters’ homes.

“The closing of schools poses a real problem for finding adequate facilities for polling places,” the commission’s senior research director, Nathaniel Persily, said last month.

The commission also suggested better training for poll workers to help voters who speak limited English. And the commission said in its report that recommendations were kept broad to address problems faced by a wide swath of voters.

“Any solutions in this realm must be made with an eye toward addressing the problems faced by voters as a whole while also ensuring that the needs of these discrete populations are met,” the report said. “They should be adopted not only because they address problems broadly shared, but also because they address more severe challenges faced by particular populations.”

10 comments
bobcn
bobcn

Voter fraud does, in fact, exist in meaningful numbers.  Just not by 'in person' voting -- which is extremely rare and not significant to election outcomes.  

In virtually every election year we have examples of absentee voter fraud.  Ballots are submitted by non-existent voters and absentee ballots are discarded by officials who don't want votes for opposing candidates being counted. 

So, if republicans are sincere in their efforts to stop voter fraud, why don't they go after the real problem: absentee voter fraud?  

The answer is simple: a larger percentage of republicans vote by absentee than do Democrats.  Fixing absentee voter fraud risks making voting harder for the republicans constituency.  And, in truth, passing laws to address the 'in person' voter fraud non-problem isn't really about fixing a problem.  It's about creating a problem for Democrats who want to vote.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/us/politics/as-more-vote-by-mail-faulty-ballots-could-impact-elections.html?pagewanted=all

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/a-dtente-before-the-election/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

notsacredh
notsacredh

Easy access to voting is un-American. They really want to let ALL eligible voters to vote? Something here is fishy.

tkulaga
tkulaga

It's my understanding the problem in Miami area was there were enough voting stations but not enough machines to slide your ballot into so as you actually voted. So why not have more ballot counting machines at some Polls?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Easy access means easy access for cheating. Hope the the Republicans dont let this slip this through this time. 

ZacPetit
ZacPetit

Easy fix: let everyone vote online. Use a site with SSL encryption, hash an access string using a person's full name with their social security number as salt, and keep phone lines open for cases of fraud (no system is perfect, take a look at how we do it now). Keep the old voting booths open for the elderly / individuals without an internet connection / Republicans who will never vote online but have those booths interface directly with the online voting servers to prevent fraud and save time when counting.

Oh, and when the voting is done, SELECT COUNT(candidate_voted_for) FROM votes_table WHERE candidate_voted_for = '{candidate_name_here}' is a lot easier than counting by hand!

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

This recommendation, of course, is at odds with the Republican party's strategy to deal with its demographic problem.


The GOP has a major crisis impending, in light of the changing demography of the country.  Their constituency is composed of a small number of very wealthy oligarchs and a larger number of old, white, intolerant, grumpy Bible-thumping misanthropes.  As the country becomes more diverse, as younger and more tolerant people move in large numbers into the electorate, as people become generally better educated, etc., the natural Republican constituency shrinks.  


There are, after all, only so many old, crotchety bigots around.


Thus, the Republican party has a strategy to redress their obvious deficiency.  No, it's not outreach to minorities, women and immigrants.  It's vote suppression.


The entirety of the voter ID frenzy has been promoted by the Republicans, disingenuously, as a means to combat "in person voter fraud", a problem which they haven't shown even exists.  It's a subterfuge for vote suppression.  


Therefore, the GOP's approach to combating their lack of appeal to voters is simply to prevent American citizens to whom they don't appeal from voting.  


Widening public access to voting and making elections more accessible to all American citizens is exactly the opposite of the GOP's goal.  

bobcn
bobcn

@ReneDemonteverde 

"Easy access means easy access for cheating"

Ahhh.... Nope.  There's nothing about antiquated systems that makes them better or safer.  And there's no excuse for limiting early voting (other than to make it harder for blue collar voters to cast their votes).

Rene, do you have any interest in or suggestions for solving the real voter fraud problem: absentee voter fraud? 

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@bobcnI will just say this. If you buy liquor they will ask for an ID. Anytime you buy and use your credit card they will ask for an ID to show you are who you are. What is wrong with showing an ID in a voting booth ?