Obama’s election reform panel: No voter should have to wait more than 30 minutes

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President Obama and the special commission he created on election reforms said Wednesday that no voter in America should need to wait in line more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot.

Responding to high-profile logistical problems in the 2012 general election, when voters in some cities waited five hours or more to vote, Mr. Obama’s commission issued a series of recommendations to streamline voting nationwide, including more use of online registration, more early voting and more “efficient allocation of resources.”

The president said voters “should be confident that their vote is being properly counted and is secure.”

Mr. Obama said he intends to “reach out to stakeholders” to push for the reforms. But with 8,000 voting jurisdictions nationally, commissioners acknowledged it will be largely up to state and municipal officials to adopt the proposals.

The president didn’t ask his commission to address voter fraud. But commission co-chair Benjamin Ginsberg, who was counsel to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said more accurate voter rolls would help to reduce long lines at the polls.

“People on the left and the right believe there should be accurate voter registration lists,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “If you have clean lists, lines at polling places are less likely to occur.”

But the cause of election “reform” has not avoided partisan overtones. Many states under Republican control have adopted voter ID laws to prevent fraud, a move that Democrats contend is aimed at suppressing minority voting.

Although the panel identified proposals to make voting smoother, the commission also said there is a looming crisis: Voting machines that were purchased with federal money in 2003, after the contested Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election, are nearing the end of their “shelf life.” But neither the federal government nor the states are setting aside money to replace them.

“Virtually all the machines in the country were purchased in 2003,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “Those machines are about to wear out. There’s not a $3 billion federal appropriation on the horizon. That is going to be a problem every bit as great as what we swore after Florida was never going to happen again. It just is sort of an undiscussed subject right now.”

Mr. Obama said most of the commission’s proposals, which don’t have the force of legislation, “can be embraced by all of us.”

The panel’s other recommendations include:

• have states update and exchange their voter registration lists to create the most accurate lists possible, which the panel said will “protect against fraud.”

• increase the use of schools as polling places, because 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.”

• improve the ability of military and overseas voters to access ballots and other voting materials through the states’ websites.

• improve the training of poll workers.

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