Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bipartisan Election Commission Releases List of Suggested Fixes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bipartisan Election Commission Releases List of Suggested Fixes

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan panel created by President Barack Obama after many voters waited hours to cast ballots in 2012 on Wednesday recommended ways to keep delays to no more than a half- hour. But changes are up to the states and 8,000 local jurisdictions, where voting laws have been a partisan battleground since the 2000 presidential recount.

After surveying local officials, the commission also warned of two potential crises: Voting machines purchased a decade ago, when federal funds were made available as a post-recount remedy, are breaking down or obsolete. And local schools -- long a favored polling place and accessible to the disabled -- increasingly are unavailable for voting, as more of them restrict entry in response to shootings such as the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Mr. Obama noted in his 2012 victory speech that some voters were still in line that night, even as he spoke, and then announced the 10-member commission a year ago in his State of the Union address. He received the report, six months in the making, at the White House from the panel's co-chairmen -- Robert Bauer, a Democrat, and Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican, the top lawyers for his own and Mitt Romney's 2012 campaigns. The panel also included executives, academics and state and local officials.

"Unlike a lot of countries, we've got a pretty complex system," Mr. Obama said as the report was released Wednesday. "We vote a lot. We have local jurisdictions that run these elections, and it makes things a little bit more complicated."

Long waits have frustrated and turned away voters in numerous states in recent presidential elections, especially in Democratic- leaning cities and small-town college campuses. The commission concluded that they "result from a combination of mismanagement, limited or misallocated resources, and long ballots."

Besides making recommendations, the panel created online tools -- at the website -- for local administrators to better allocate resources such as machines, staff and polling volunteers, and compiled best practices for managing lines. It also addressed repeated problems in ballot casting for military and overseas voters, the disabled and those with limited English proficiency. …

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