As President Obama’s Commission on Election Administration searches for ways to shorten the long lines that plagued last year’s voting and smooth out other kinks in the machinery of our elections, Common Cause chapters across the country are drawing on our work with voters and election officials to highlight problems and propose solutions.
In testimony submitted during a hearing today in Philadelphia, Elizabeth Randol, Common Cause Pennsylvania’s elections modernization campaign manager, urged the commission to clamp down on voter suppression practices which keep interested and eligible voters away from the polls. The commission should push states to adopt strict laws against voter intimidation, she said, and should endorse online voter registration and in-person Election Day registration. “The most important duty of this commission is to restore citizens’ confidence in the fairness and reliability of our elections by promoting procedures that ensure every eligible citizen who wants to vote has the opportunity to do so, to guarantee that every vote is counted exactly as cast, and reassure voters that they will be able to exercise their franchise in a safe and welcoming environment,” Randol declared.
When the commission convened in Denver on Aug. 8, Elena Nunez, director of Common Cause Colorado, detailed for members how voting by mail there has grown in popularity while becoming more confusing to voters. At Common Cause’s urging, state legislators addressed the problem by passing a new elections law that creates consistency by automatically mailing a ballot to every voter with a good address, eliminating the confusion about when and whether a voter is going to get a mail ballot. Importantly, Colorado’s new law does not establish an exclusively vote by mail system, allowing voters who desire to do so to continue voting in person.
As the commission began its work in June, Common Cause provided a detailed list of problems voters encountered last November in precincts across the country. “There is no more fundamental problem with our elections than voter registration deadlines, restrictions and obstacles,” the testimony asserted. It also recommended the adoption of federal standards to determine the minimum days for early voting, locations of polling places, voting machine requirements, emergency and paper back-ups, poll worker training and provisional ballots.