Earlier Wednesday, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration released its Report and Recommendations (pdf) to improve the voting experience in the United States. Unlike many others that have entered this fray, this commission was unanimous and bipartisan in its recommendations. Of particular interest to readers of this blog: the commission relied heavily upon the expertise of the nation’s top political scientists and election administration experts. Although the most infamous problem that gave rise to the commission’s creation was the problem of long lines on Election Day, the Executive Order creating the commission tasked it with a wide range of election administration problems. The roughly 100 pages of recommendations and best practices in the report are equally broad ranging.
The principal recommendations of the commission are:
- modernization of the registration process through expansion of online voter registration and state collaboration in improving the accuracy of voter lists;
- improving access through expansion of pre-Election Day voting, and selection of suitable, well-equipped polling place facilities, such as schools;
- endorsement of tools to assure efficient management of polling places, hosted at the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project and available through the commission’s Web site;
- reforms of the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available off-the-shelf technologies.
The report is the principal but not the only part of the ambitious project that the commission undertook in its six months of operations. As noted in the recommendations, the commission sought out and is publicizing on its Web site tools that administrators can use to deal with two issues. The first set of Web applications allows administrators to predict wait times and allocate resources accordingly. (Especially impressive is the tool developed by Mark Pelczarski.) The second set of tools are ones developed by Rock the Vote to help states transition to online voter registration, and to do so in a way that will allow any state-endorsed partner to facilitate direct voter registration through its Web site. The commission hopes that these tools will serve as a starting point and that local administrators will improve upon them and adapt them to fit their needs.
In addition, political scientists working closely with the commission conducted a nationwide survey of local election officials. In the remarkably tight timeframe in which the commission existed, Charles Stewart III (MIT), Stephen Ansolabehere (Harvard), and Daron Shaw (Texas) polled more than 3,000 local election administrators. The survey results and data are available in the report’s appendix.