Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — In “stuff that matters” news, the Bauer-Ginsberg Commission on election administration issued its report today. Well, it’s not clear that the commission is actually important, but the topic certainly is. U.S. elections are poorly run, and getting worse.

Election law expert Rick Hasen discusses the report here. The good news? The bipartisan commission, appointed by the president, has produced enormous amounts of useful and usable information about how to run elections, such as increased early voting, online voter registration and better coordination between state motor vehicle departments and election administration offices to truly fulfill the promise of Motor Voter laws.

Any election administrator who wants to do a better job, and has the resources to do it, will be in much better shape armed with the commission’s best practices and an “Election Toolkit.”

The bad news? That’s about it. Barack Obama responded by repeating his goal, and the commission principle, that no one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. But the commission, which had a very limited mandate, has not only produced nothing enforceable, it hasn’t really even recommended anything enforceable. Nor has it recommended new funding for elections.

Hasen sums it up:

Kudos to the Commissioners and staff for accomplishing much more than I thought could be accomplished given the limited charge. Given the charge, this is a tremendous accomplishment. If these changes could be implemented it would positively affect the voting experience of millions of voters. Unfortunately, the problems identified by the Commission, and those sidestepped by the Commission, will require much more than this Commission’s good work to be solved. It remains to be seen if we can get beyond partisan recriminations and actually fix what remains a broken U.S. election system. Much depends upon the persuasive powers of Commission members, the President, and others.

I remain a pessimist about this. To the extent that states want to make it easy for everyone to vote and are willing to devote the resources to achieve that, it’s great that they’ll now have a path to do so (see Heather Gerken’s optimistic take for how this could work). But I just don’t see “make it easy for everyone to vote” as a goal that most, or even many, states share.

I hope I’m wrong! To the extent that the problem is mainly one of information not previously available to well-intentioned, non-partisan election administrators, then Bauer-Ginsberg could certainly make a big difference. But to the extent the problem is one of partisan state governments who want to maintain high hurdles between (at least some) people and the franchise — or to the extent that money is needed to implement change and election administration remains a low priority — then change will be minimal.

Still, I strongly agree with Hasen that the people involved were excellent. And even modest improvements would be welcome. I just don’t see much hope for significant progress given the partisan environment. Voting should be easy for everyone. There are reasons it’s not.

Photo: Erik Hersman via Flickr

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    In 2012, my wife and I had to wait close to two hours to vote. Why? They closed one polling place due to a school closing, then realigned the rest of the districts. Easily 20% of the people in line ahead of us were in the incorrect location, as the town had failed to provide accurate instructions for everyone’s new location. Then another 10% did not have proper ID, or were not even registered. Those I count among the individuals who should not be allowed to vote at all. If they ain’t smart enough to have registered, or to bring the minimum acceptable ID (like a utility bill) then I really don’t want them to help select the leader of the Free World! Finally – we had a turnout significantly higher than anyone expected it would be!
    Now, contrast that with last November. All we had were some municipal elections and a bonding issue. I finished the entire process in less than 10 minutes from parking my car, walking in, checking my id, getting my ballot, marking it, putting it in the counter machine and walking back to my car. While I don’t expect the 10 minutes on a biannual election (we alternate our gubernatorial elections with the Presidentials) two flippin’ hour wait is a bit on the ridiculous side!

  • Bill Thompson

    “Elections are poorly run and getting worse” for one reason, the GOP governors of the states wanted that way. First of all elections are the states responsibility. Gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws are meant to favor a particular political party over the other. Making registration more restrictive, consolidating polling places, early voting restrictions, new mail in restrictions and voter ID laws, are meant to make voting more difficult for certain segments of our population. The above study was federally funded and even though it was a bipartisan commission it has no teeth. In my opinion voting laws in this country should be Universal and cater to the constituents constitutional right to vote. Voter fraud is a Chimera it has never affected the outcome of an election and the fact that governors are playing this card is just absurd.

    • leadvillexp

      I agree with you but don’t blame the GOP. All parties do this. Who ever is in power tries to hold control this way. In New York Governor Cuomo is doing this now against the GOP. We need a new way. Elect a farmer!

      • Bill Thompson

        I will concede that gerrymandering is practiced by both Democrats and Republicans, but as far as restrictive voting laws the GOP owns that practice out right. Voter fraud simply does not exist see study below. As far as Gov. Cuomo goes he simply said that the tea party wack jobs will gain no sway in New York.

        • leadvillexp

          I will agree with you that voter fraud does not exist,however I don’t find the GOP blocking it in New York State. While I vote both parties I have to tell you Governor Cuomo is a dictator and does not deserve to be reelected. He bypasses the legislature every time he can and laughs about it. Her has said as much in the media..