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.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
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Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).
President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”