Presidential commission recommends expanded early voting, online registration


The Presidential Commission on Election Administration released its report — required under executive order from the president — recommending expanding early voting opportunities and online voter registration.

The 10-member commission said should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote in the 8,000 jurisdictions that administer elections in the United States.

The 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 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.

• 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.

• Collecting election data on a uniform basis to enable enhanced analysis to improve the voter experience. The report contained praise for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board which “performs a survey and audit of polling places that stands as a model.” The commission said that while Wisconsin has the most decentralized election administrative system in the country, it has one of the most thorough election data-gathering programs.

Laura W. Murphy, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, said, “Overall, these are a series of recommendations that make sense, but we have to analyze them comprehensively both for their civil rights and privacy implications. We welcome efforts to improve election administration in this country, which is woefully out of date in far too many jurisdictions.”

In recent years, Republican administrations in a number of state have sought to reduce voting opportunities, including in Florida, Virginia and Tennessee, where voters were waiting in line to cast ballots after the results of the presidential contest were announced in November 2012.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers also have worked to reduce voting opportunities or impede access to the polls, including with a photo ID law that’s been challenged in court and a push to limit early voting times.

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For the record

The commission included:

• 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.