A presidential commission set up to address long lines and other problems at the polls will turn to voters, local officials and researchers in crafting a plan to improve election systems. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, created by President Barack Obama early this year, will hold a public hearing Friday in Miami followed by hearings in Denver on Aug. 8, Philadelphia, Pa., on Sept. 4 and an unspecified city in Ohio on Sept. 20. The commission held its first public meeting Friday in Washington. “Our goal… is to keep attention very active on this issue,” said Robert Bauer, co-chairman of the commission and general counsel to Obama’s 2012 campaign. “Please help us ferret out the information that we need.” The hearings come as public attention turns to major voting issues.
The Supreme Court could rule as early as Monday on whether Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be eliminated. Section 5 requires all or part of 16 states with a history of discrimination, including Mississippi, to get approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their election systems.
Currently, Mississippi is waiting for a decision from the Justice Department on its new voter ID law.
Last week, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship for people registering to vote.
“There’s a huge spotlight on voting issues now,” said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “I’ve never seen the intensity of interest in voting rights that the public has now.”
If the Supreme Court throws out Section 5, “that spotlight will intensify,” Greenbaum said.