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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

ACMD POLITICS: Obama panel: Voters shouldn’t wait longer than half an hour

No one should have to wait more than half an hour to vote, a presidential panel has concluded, part of a long-awaited report on how to fix the voting experience.
The “problems that hinder the efficient administration of elections are both identifiable and solvable,” concluded the report, released Wednesday by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.
In addition to specific tools for reducing lines, it recommended increased early voting, expanded online voting, and more accurate voter rolls as ways to make the voting system run more smoothly.
In remarks to reporters, President Obama called the report “outstanding” and said: “Lots of the recommendations are common sense, ones that can be embraced by all of us.”
Some voters in Florida and Virginia waited eight hours or more to cast a ballot in 2012, prompting a pledge from Obama during his Election night victory speech to fix the problem. To do so, he appointed a commission co-chaired by the top lawyers for his and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg, respectively.
The 10-member panel, which included business leaders, academics, and election officials, conducted a six-month study of election best practices, including several public hearings.
The report is “one of the most effective and credible documents on meaningful voting reform issued in many years,” Rick Pildes, a prominent election law professor at New York University and a top lawyer on Obama’s campaign, wrote online.
The half-hour wait time for voting “is now likely to become a benchmark against which election systems and administrators are going to be judged,” Pildes wrote. “It will provide a key focal point for organizations and journalists to assess elections.”
But the report is non-binding, and it’s not yet clear how many of the report’s ideas will be put into practice, and how broadly. “The question is how much leverage the report itself will provide as a means of getting its solid recommendations adopted,” Pildes wrote.
Better planning and more efficient allocation of resources by local jurisdictions can significantly reduce poll wait times, the report found. The commission is offering local officials a series of online tools and techniques aimed at helping them cut wait times.
The report also offered recommendations to improve other aspects of the voting experience. Among them:
  • Expanding online voter registration.
  • Expanding early voting.
  • Having states update and share their voter registration lists, in order to cut down on duplicates and other errors, and increase registration.
  • Replacing old machines with more modern versions.
  • Making it easier for military and other overseas voters to cast a ballot.
  • Improving the training and recruitment of poll workers.
Most of the recommendations are uncontroversial. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who has been criticized in the past by voting rights advocates, has made expanding online voter registration a priority. And there’s universal acknowledgement that voting rolls need to be cleaned up.
Expanding early voting may be the exception. Republicans in North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states have pushed lately to cut early voting, citing the costs and the potential for fraud. Studies show blacks are far more likely than whites to vote early.

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