A Step for Voting Reform

The Nation, January 31, 2005 | Go to article overview

A Step for Voting Reform


Something good for American democracy happened on January 6. In its first potentially decisive consideration of a challenge to a presidential election in 128 years, at least some members of Congress acknowledged the decrepit state of our election system and pledged to do something about it.

Now, as happened four years ago, with generally disappointing results, election reform is again on the table. We progressives must do our utmost to keep it there until real reform is won.

That will require making it a high priority and continuing the kind of effort and coordination among civil rights, labor and other constituencies that helped persuade Senator Barbara Boxer to join Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones in not accepting Ohio's electors. Although in the end she and Tubbs Jones were unsuccessful in their quest, Boxer's action led many of her fellow senators to join her in condemning "a flawed system which must be fixed now."

Representative John Conyers, who as much as any one person deserves credit for January 6, has announced that he will soon be introducing an election reform bill. And, after years of talk, there is something approaching a consensus--at least among those interested in easy, accurate voting and fair campaigns--on the essential reforms that are needed.

Nationally, we want a floor on voting mechanics and rights. We want a national right to vote, ideally enshrined in the Constitution, to guard against voter suppression or other basic unfairness. We want universal registration, recognizable in every election district in the country, and multiple opportunities before election time to prove required residence. We want consistency in ballot design, and maximum ease of use. We also want consistent, nationwide rules on voter ID requirements and on how to count and recount ballots. We want every state and national election day to be a public holiday. We want nonpartisan election administration. We want computer voting technology that can be examined by people outside the companies providing it and a secure paper trail on all votes cast. We want a nonpartisan national election commission--populated by recognized experts in voting machine technology, statistical analysis and polling, and national and comparative politics--to evaluate the accuracy and representativeness of our election performance regularly and make recommendations for improvement. …

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