Monday, September 19, 2005

Bipartisan Panel Calls For Election Overhaul

In a report presented today to President Bush and congressional leaders, a bipartisan panel headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III are recommending a widespread overhaul of election practices.

Seeking to overcome the flaws that brought election turmoil to Florida in 2000 and to Ohio last year — and that cast doubt on the outcome nationally — they are calling for election oversight to be removed from politicians and given to nonpartisan election professionals.

If the states adopt the recommendation that nonpartisan officials run elections, the process would be removed from offices such as that led in 2000 by then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was at the same time a co-chair of Bush's Florida campaign. Her dual role raised questions about the integrity of the vote, just as the partisanship of Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a co-chair of Bush's 2004 campaign in that state, raised some doubts about the fairness of the presidential voting there last year. As in Florida in 2000, if Bush had lost the Ohio vote he would have lost the election.

Supporting its call for nonpartisan election offices, the report said that "we cannot build confidence in elections if secretaries of State responsible for certifying votes are simultaneously chairing political campaigns."

The recommendations run against "the tremendous vested interest of local election administrators" by moving control of elections "out of the hands of partisan, self-interested actors," Richard Pildes, an expert on voting rights and election law at the New York University School of Law, told Newsday. He called the findings "extremely important."

***

The former president, a Democrat, and the former secretary of State, a Republican, are the co-chairmen of the private Commission on Federal Election Reform, a 21-member bipartisan panel that spent five months studying the most pressing problems with the nation's electoral system.

The report concludes that despite changes required under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, far more must be done to restore integrity to an election system that suffers from sloppy management, treats voters differently not only from state to state but also within states, and that too often frustrates rather than encourages voters' efforts to participate in what is considered a basic American right.

The 2002 federal legislation grew out of the disputed election of 2000 and is not yet fully implemented. But the Carter-Baker commission said that even with some important changes in place, the 2004 election was marred by many of the same errors as the 2000 election. "Had the margin of victory for the [2004] presidential contest been narrower, the lengthy dispute that followed the 2000 election could have been repeated," the report states.

Implementation of the rules also varied from state to state, the panel found.

For example, the 2002 act required the use of provisional ballots for any eligible voter who shows up at a polling place but whose name is not on a registration list, but the 2004 election produced disparate standards for determining which of those ballots were counted. Alaska counted 97 percent of its provisional ballots, but Delaware counted 6 percent, according to the commission. The group recommends that states set uniform standards.

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Congressional action would be needed to implement some of the panel's 87 recommendations; states could enact others. The expected cost for all the recommendations would be $1.35 billion, the report said.

After Carter and Baker present the 91-page report to Bush and then to Congress, it will be posted at http://www.american.edu/Carter-Baker. The two men hope that some of their goals can be achieved before the 2008 presidential election.

"The American people are losing confidence in the system, and they want electoral reform," Carter said in a statement accompanying the report. He said the changes the commission had proposed "represent the best path toward modernizing our electoral system."

***

Other recommendations:

-- In response to concern that votes cast on electronic machines might not be counted — one of the factors that surfaced in Florida — the panel recommended a system that would create a paper record of the vote, to give voters confidence "that their votes will be counted accurately."

-- Establishment of a "universal voting registration system." States, rather than local jurisdictions, would be responsible for the accuracy of voter lists. State lists should be interchangeable so that "people would need to register only once in their lifetime, and it would be easy to update their registration information when they move."

-- Implementation of a uniformly accepted photo identification system to ensure that a would-be voter is the person on a voting list. States should establish more offices, including mobile facilities, to make it easier for non-drivers to register and receive photo IDs.

-- A greater role for states in registering potential voters. In addition, states should make it easier for ex-felons who have met their sentencing and parole requirements to register to vote, with the exception of registered sex offenders.

3 Comments:

Anonymous bostonbabs said...

question...wasn't Baker instrumental in Florida during
the " recount" ?

.....on Bush's side?

5:24 PM  
Anonymous garthranzz said...

Another Whitewash

But like the mold creeping through the houses of the city Shrub drowned, the stench of the stolen election will, the Biblical plagues on contaminated houses, reveal itself.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous nadinbrzezinski said...

ah some of them recommmendatins were given in Mexico.. the National Voter ID came out of it...

My recomendation, transparent plastic boxes and hand counts with foreign observers and indelible ink... but that is oh so third world...

(sarcasm)

5:25 PM  

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