A year after President Obama's pledge to address voting problems, a commission he established recommends expanding early voting and online voter registration to improve efficiency at polls nationwide.
The 2012 election was characterized by stories of voters waiting for hours to cast ballots at some polls in battleground states. The commission's unanimous conclusion is that "problems that hinder the efficient administration of elections are both identifiable and solvable," and that no voter should have to wait more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot.
The commission also recommended jurisdictions form advisory groups to address the needs of disabled or voters with limited English proficiency; address the "impending crisis in voting technology," as no federal dollars are set aside to update 10-year-old voting machines; and improve the recruitment and training of poll workers.
Obama established the commission in March through an executive order, making good on a promise in his State of the Union address to improve the access to voting and efficiency at the polls. During his speech, he highlighted 102-year-old Desiline Victor of North Miami, who waited for hours to vote at her polling place. Florida, which experienced the longest-average wait time, according to the commission, had reduced its number of early-voting days from 14 to eight.
"When any American—no matter where they live or what their party—are denied that right because they can't wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals," Obama said in his 2013 address.
Voting rights have moved to the fore since then. In June, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. A bipartisan amendment introduced last week would revive Justice Department oversight of voting in states that have had more than four voting-rights violations within the last 15 years. If approved, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas would have to seek Justice Department preclearance before making changes to voting laws.
Cochairs of the 10-member, nonpartisan commission are the counsels to President Obama's and Mitt Romney's 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsberg, respectively.
"Our aim was to transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters," Bauer and Ginsberg said in a joint statement. The commission is set to dissolve 30 days after its report is issued.