Archive for the 'Election reform' Category

The EAC’s Troubles

April 12, 2016
posted by Bob Bauer

When the Presidential Commission on Election Administration held hearings around the country, the future of the Election Commission Administration came up regularly in discussions and testimony.  The EAC had no Commissioners, and the concern was chiefly that it could not attend to its responsibility for voting machine standards and certification. There was also a sense that the absence of the EAC—amid indications of neglect, partisan stand-off, or both—highlighted the weakness of a national commitment to progress in professional election administration.  The EAC was an invaluable resource for administrators, and, if it could steer clear of partisan conflict, it could perform a valuable service to the election administration community—and to the voters.

The EAC then got enough Commissioners for a quorum and full operations.  This was a period of considerable promise, and those working in the field moved quickly to engage with the EAC.  For example, early on Ben Ginsberg and I sent a letter urging that the newly functional Commission initiate steps to improve the standard-setting and certification process for voting machines.  The Commission subsequently acted, and it did so unanimously.  EAC-sponsored discussions in which former PCEA Commissioners and election administrators participated heightened the expectation that the Commission could help mark out the ground for professional administration even in a period of intense political and other conflict over voting rights.  There were warm and encouraging words all around.

Brian Newby, appointed Executive Director in November of 2015, has quickly managed to put all of this at risk.  Claiming authority to disregard past EAC policy and precedent--and understanding full well that he was ignoring disagreement among the Commissioners and provoking fresh partisan conflict--he purported to consent to state requests to modify the Federal Form for registration applicants to include a requirement of documentary proof of citizenship.  On this highly visible and divisive issue, in the face of its long and actively litigated history, Newby concluded that this is what he should do.

Voter ID Facts and Motivation: Easterbrook v. Posner

October 16, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
Judges Easterbrook and Posner square off in their opinions on the Wisconsin voter ID statute and their exchange comes down to two questions: the differences in the design and effects of ID statutes, and the significance of partisan motivation. Frank V. Walker, Nos. 14-2058 & 14-2059 (7th Cir., Oct. 6, 2014). Easterbrook is casual, if not careless, in discussing the differences, and in his treatment more generally of facts. Posner insists on their importance. Easterbrook sweeps aside the question of political motivation, and Posner does not.

Setting Goals for Political Reform

November 6, 2013
posted by Bob Bauer

Joe Nocera has put out a call for reform and opens the discussion with a few that he favors. Tying his list together is his hope to "invigorate the electorate" and encourage "more responsive, and less extreme, political candidates.” These different goals can pull in different directions. An electorate is often invigorated by negative campaigns—which is not to say that candidates have to be extreme in order to be negative, or that only negative campaigns are invigorating, but the connection is not unknown, either. And there is also nothing to suggest that extreme candidates, however Nocera defines “extreme,” are unresponsive. Many are responsive to constituents that reward them for this type of behavior.

Of the different reforms Nocera lists, two illustrate the reasons why some reform programs open with hope and end in frustration, and others might stand a chance.