Commission urges states to expand online registration, early voting

Commission urges states to expand online registration, early voting
A steady stream of voters fill the voting booths at Ronald Reagan Lodge in West Chester, Ohio. (Al Behrman / Associated Press)
WASHINGTON -- States should expand online voter registration and create more voting opportunities before election day, according to a report issued Wednesday by a commission formed in wake of trouble at the polls in 2012.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration is slated to present its more than 100-page report to President Obama later in the day. Obama created the group last spring after long lines and confusion at the polls left some voters waiting up to eight hours to cast ballots. Obama vowed to prioritize reform of the nation’s voting system in his second term.

The commission, led by longtime Washington attorneys Robert F. Bauer, an advisor to Democrats, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican, focused its six-month study on bringing modern efficiency to voting and improving “customer service” at the polls. As its standard, it agreed that no voter should wait more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot.

“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, counsel to Obama’s campaigns, and Ginsberg, counsel to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said in a joint statement.

The panel members noted that the problems they uncovered -- including disorganization, poorly designed ballots and bad planning -- disproportionately affect certain groups, including military voters overseas, voters who speak limited English and voters with disabilities.

The commission included election officials from across the country and largely targeted changes made at the state level. Its top four recommendations are:

– States should continue to adopt online voting registration, as well as regular updating of their voter registration files and cross-checking with other states. More accurate voter files significantly cut down on congestion at the polls, the commission found.

– States should continue to increase alternative voting opportunities before election day, such as early voting or vote by mail.

– Local officials should more carefully distribute resources. The commission posted a resource allocation calculator on its website,, to help officials determine how many voting machines and volunteers should be posted at each polling place.

– Federal officials need to reform voting-machine technology regulations. The commission warned of an "impending crisis" as voting machines purchased a decade ago, after the last major election reforms were enacted, need to be replaced. New certification standards would help local officials buy the most affordable and best new equipment, the commission found.

Bauer and Ginsberg are due to meet with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House.

Twitter: @khennessey

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