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Elections Panel Calls On States To Make It Easier To Vote

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LONG LINES VOTING 2012
People queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Washington,DC on November 6, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM) | NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- States should implement online voter registration and expand early voting in order to reduce long lines at the voting booth, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration recommended in a report issued Wednesday.

The 10-member commission, announced by President Barack Obama during his 2013 State of the Union address, was formed to examine the issues that led to crowding at some polling places in 2012. It was chaired by Bob Bauer, former general counsel for the 2012 Obama campaign, and Ben Ginsberg, the Mitt Romney campaign's former top election lawyer. The panel based its recommendations on the premise that nobody should have to wait more than a half-hour to vote.

“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 focus that we and our eight colleagues on the Commission brought to the Report is recognition of the issues and trends in election administration judged from the standpoint of voter expectation and the ways those expectations can and should be met."

The 112-page report, based on a six-month study, recommended the expansion of "alternative ways of voting, such as mail balloting and in-person early voting." The commission found that long lines were a bigger problem in larger jurisdictions and that nearly half of Americans lived in places where elections officials admitted long lines were an issue.

Both of the panel's chairs will meet with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday at 10:45 a.m.

Here's a breakdown of the recommendations:

  • 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 their 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;
  • To usher in this needed next generation of equipment, 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; and
  • Collecting election data on a uniform basis to enable enhanced analysis to improve the voter experience.

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