In the 2012 election, Robert Bauer was President Obama’s campaign counsel and Benjamin Ginsberg was the top lawyer for Republican opponent Mitt Romney. Now they have joined forces to co-chair the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, studying the problems elections face. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity. Q: Long lines, unreliable voting machines, disputed ballots: Why don’t elections in the United States work better?
Ginsberg:There are 8,000 different jurisdictions that are responsible for putting on some part of our elections. It is a process largely fueled by volunteers. They don’t have adequate training in most cases. So uniformity among our elections because of the way our system has been for 200 years is proving pretty difficult.
Bauer:We don’t commit nearly the resources that we need to, to the election administration process. Our administrators, who are generally overlooked when things go well and harshly criticized when they don’t, by and large have to deal with very tight budgets in which the priority is never very high for the work they have to do.
Q: Do you think voter fraud is a big problem?
Bauer:It is not the problem it’s being made out to be. It does not justify the anti-fraud measures that a number of states, at least that’s what they’re calling them, have been implementing. Obviously Democrats, progressives, if you will, have some significant concern about what really lies behind this. Now, let me say clearly . . . nobody believes that we should have a system that permits widespread fraud to take place. Everybody understands that we need safeguards to ensure that voting is done with integrity and we can have confidence in the outcome of our elections.
. . . But having said that, there isn’t any evidence of widespread fraud, and there certainly isn’t the sort of evidence that would justify some of what we’re seeing in the legislative and political sphere today, which frankly – whether by design or just because it happens that way – results, in our view, in disqualifying voters that should be permitted to cast their ballots and participate in the democratic process.
Ginsberg: I think that there are examples of fraud, and when there are examples of fraud, if you want people to have faith in the system, and to give the appearance that it is a one-person, one-vote system, then some simple measures that are common in everyday life, like showing photo ID, is to me a useful step to take.