Presidential Commission on Election Administration releases its report

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration has released its report, The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (.pdf).

Greg Sargent writes at the Washington Post, A step towards better elections:

[The Commission's] prescriptions are very likely to please voting reformers, though they probably will cite areas where the panel could have gone farther. The key recommendations are improved voter registration through online registration and interstate exchange of voter lists, to ensure accuracy and speed the process; expansion of early voting; and improved voting technology.

One of the most important things about the report is that it unabashedly identifies our voting difficulties as a national problem that requires a national solution. “We view the recommendations as broad-based solutions to common problems evident on a national scale,” the report says. “The recommendations in this report are targeted at common problems shared by all or most jurisdictions. For the most part, they are of a size that should fit all.”

The report does discuss some regional variations, but this is a clear declaration of the scope of the problem, and the required scope of the solution. Indeed, the report recommends the creation of a national standard: “no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.”

“Some had eschewed national solutions, or any kinds of efforts to fix these problems, by suggesting they’re so particular and local that they can’t be solved with national policy,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, tells me. “This sets a national standard for judging our election performance against. Here is a bipartisan group with strong credibility from both parties, strongly putting their thumb on the scale for national solutions.”

Those in the group include the leading elections lawyers from the 2012 Obama and Romney campaigns, Bob Bauer and Benjamin Ginsberg.

The report prioritizes improving the experience of the voter — or, put another way, the experience of all voters — as a top goal. The question now is, Do both parties want to achieve this?

After all, in setting that as its goal, the report ends up embracing some Democratic solutions. As Jeffrey Toobin points out, early voting and improved voter registration are both top Democratic goals.

The debate over voting reform should be able to get past the partisan arguments we’ve been hearing on the topic. This report’s identification of national problems — and its recommended solutions — go far beyond many of the disputes we’ve been seeing over voter ID. As such, it poses a challenge to Republicans, as Toobin concludes:

The recommendations will test Republicans. If, as many Democrats believe, they simply want to reduce turnout because they have a tendency to win low-turnout elections and lose high-turnout contests, Republicans can ignore or nitpick the recommendations, despite Ginsberg’s impeccable partisan credentials. (I first met both Ginsberg and Bauer when they were on opposite sides of the Florida recount, in 2000.) Or the commission’s work could serve as a model of bipartisan coöperation, with the two sides putting aside their differences in the interest of setting up fairer fights in the future. That, in any event, is today’s fond hope.

Indeed. As Ari Berman recently put it:

Members of Congress face a choice: Do you want to make it easier or harder for people to vote? The question, and answer, is really that simple.

Steve Benen adds, Election panel eyes reforms:

The White House assembled the commission, which, following six months of effort, released its report this morning. It's actually better than I expected it to be.

States should implement online voter registration and expand early voting in order to reduce long lines at the voting booth, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration recommended in a report issued Wednesday.

The 10-member commission, announced by President Barack Obama during his 2013 State of the Union address, was formed to examine the issues that led to crowding at some polling places in 2012. It was chaired by Bob Bauer, former general counsel for the 2012 Obama campaign, and Ben Ginsberg, the Mitt Romney campaign's former top election lawyer. The panel based its recommendations on the premise that nobody should have to wait more than a half-hour to vote.

The full, 112-page report is online here (pdf), and its list of recommendations is not brief. Unfortunately for state Republican policymakers, who've launched efforts of late to restrict voting rights on a scale unlike anything seen in the United States since Jim Crow, the non-partisan panel is urging sensible reforms, including expanding early voting and utilizing more schools as polling places.

Rick Hasen, an elections-law expert, took a deeper dive and concluded, "Kudos to the Commissioners and staff for accomplishing much more than I thought could be accomplished given the limited charge. Given the charge, this is a tremendous accomplishment. If these changes could be implemented it would positively affect the voting experience of millions of voters."

* * *

[T]he new non-partisan commission represents something of a challenge to Republican policymakers at every level: you can make it easier or harder for Americans to participate in their own democracy. This panel concluded that “no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote,” and presented steps to help ensure that standard is met.

Are Republican officials prepared to take this seriously or not?

Richard Pildes has more analysis at Electionlawblog.com, Seven of the Most Important Achievements of the Presidential Commission on Election Reform.

Brennan Center for Justice press release: Voting Commission Ideas Can Improve Elections.

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