Some Question Necessity of Further Election Reform

Article excerpt


The Commission on Federal Election Reform met yesterday to consider improvements to the United States' electoral system, but some activists and election officials are questioning whether such a move is necessary.

At least one member of the commission indicated that further changes would be premature until the effects of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a comprehensive election-reform bill passed in 2002, are known.

"I, for one, believe that we must focus on the goal of full implementation of HAVA before we move forward with further changes," said former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

At yesterday's daylong hearing, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, three panels examined the areas of election law, administration and voting-machine technology.

Mr. Carter was influential in the passage of HAVA. From 2001 to 2002, he and former President Gerald Ford chaired a 16-member election-reform commission, sponsored by the Century Foundation, which recommended that legislation.

The new election commission, sponsored by American University, will seek further recommended changes - a move that has angered some state elections officials, who are wondering whether there will be an end to private think-tank commissions on voting.

"The single greatest fear of the states at this point is an expanded federal role ... micromanagement of state-run elections," said Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, a panelist and former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Mr. Thornburgh said HAVA is working and should be allowed to succeed, but Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker said improvements must continue.

"I am concerned about the state of our election system ... we will try to define an electoral system for the 21st century that will make America proud again," Mr. …