By Mark Wolf
Fixing the way America runs its elections its elections shouldn't be much of a challenge. Just come up with a national consensus on voter registration, eliminate long lines at polling places, provide more voting options, be wary of reforms that come with political agendas and if you're going to move towards all-mail voting, don't forget about the post office's role.
And get this all wrapped up by Dec. 17 so we have time for holiday shopping.
Three members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which is charged with all that and more, held a 90-minute listening session at NCSL's Legislative Summit and heard from lawmakers, election officials and representatives of voting technology.
Delaware's demographics mirror the United States' almost exactly, which makes the state an excellent litmus test for various programs, said Representative Earl Jaques.
"We've kind of been stuck in the 1940s and 1950s procedures," said Jaques. "This past year we've finally addressed how we would conduct elections during natural disasters. We've just formed an election task force tring to encourage more people to vote because we're appalled at the low percentage of people who vote. We don't have early voting and we're learning how to do no-excuse absentee voting."
His colleague, John Kowalko, said he supported no-excuse absentee voting, "because with the combination of the busy lives of people and getting to that polling place on Tuesday, how difficult is it for poor people to take a day off from work and stand in line. I just heard the Australian election is coming up and they get fined if they don't vote. You can imagine the uproar if we tried to do that here but if we make it more accessible and easir for people I think people going to avail themselves of those opportunities. Any impediment to voting is just non-negotiable.
Erin Seiler of the Oregon Legislature's Committee Services Office, said the viability of the U.S. Postal Service is vital for her state, which votes exclusively by mail.
"We're struggling with what to do if we lose rural mail delivery or even go to four-day delivery," she said. "It would prohibit voting in some rural areas. Washington (state) allows votes to be counted if they were mailed on election day, but we don't. Ours have to be received by election day."
Representative Gary Richardson of New Hampshire spoke in opposition to registration provisions that would force people to register their motor vehicles: "I think it's a way to try to stop college students from voting."
Representative G.A. Hardaway from Tennessee said he considered the lack of voter education to be the root problem with low election turnout: "You have to start with puttihg civics education back in every school and expand them to include of of the voting procedures, techniques, history and law."
Nate Persily, the commission's research director, urged states to forward any information they have dealing with turnout projections, calling accurate turnout predictions the "holy grail" of election administration.