Presidential Commission on Election Administration Presents Recommendations to President Obama
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2014 – The Presidential Commission on Election Administration today presented President Obama with a series of recommendations designed to help local and state elections officials improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots. The Report is based on a six-month study conducted by the 10-Member Commission of the problems that have plagued voting in the past and the issues that will confront the American voter in the future.
The Commission concluded unanimously that the “problems that hinder the efficient administration of elections are both identifiable and solvable.” The Report offers certain key recommendations and numerous administrative best practices to improve the problem areas identified in the President’s Executive Order charging the Commission. In formulating these recommendations, the Commission heard testimony from around the country and received and evaluated the results of a survey of thousands of state and local administrators.
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.
The Report goes beyond the question of long lines and presents a comprehensive analysis on a range of structural problems within the electoral process that bears directly on the voter experience.
“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.
Serving on the Commission were:
- Robert F. Bauer, Co-Chair and Member – Partner, Perkins Coie LLP
- Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Co-Chair and Member – Partner, Patton Boggs LLP
- Brian Britton, Member – Vice President, Global Park Operations and Planning at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
- Joe Echevarria, Member – Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte LLP
- Trey Grayson, Member – Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
- Larry Lomax, Member – Clark County (Nevada) Registrar
- Michele Coleman Mayes, Member – Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary for the New York Public Library
- Ann McGeehan, Member – Assistant General Counsel of the Texas County and District Retirement System
- Tammy Patrick, Member – Federal Compliance Officer for the Maricopa County (Arizona) Elections Department
- Christopher Thomas, Member – Director of Elections in the Michigan Department of State
Professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University served as the Commission’s Research Director.
The non-partisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration was established by Executive Order on March 28, 2013. Its mission is to identify best practices in election administration and to make recommendations to improve the voting experience.
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