Long lines. New voting machines that don’t work right. Poll workers wrongfully asking for photo ID. Democratic election officials keeping Republican poll watchers out of Philadelphia polling places. We have come to expect such stories on Election Day. As much drama is generated by the obstacles voters must overcome as by their choice of candidate. A nonpartisan board, with a chief selected by a Congressional supermajority, could set standards and choose procedures. There is a better way. We can do things as they are done in most mature democracies, like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Nationalize our elections and impose professional nonpartisan administrators. A neutral election board with its allegiance to the integrity of the voting process rather than to a political party should take on the basic tasks of voting. The goal would be to make sure that all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, could cast a vote that would be accurately counted.
The most important mission of this agency would be to maintain registration and voting rolls. The government would register all voters now on the rolls and pick up new voters when they graduate or drop out of high school, paying all the costs of getting the documents necessary to prove a voter’s identity. When a voter moves and fills out a change of address form, the voter registration moves too.
The government would provide all voters with a national voter identification card, containing a unique number that a voter would use in federal elections for life. Voters would have the option to provide a thumb print, so that if the voter forgot the I.D. election officials could verify identity with the thumb print.
Congress could create such an agency tomorrow under its power to establish the rules for Congressional elections. The board or czar should be nominated by the president, and subject to a 75 percent confirmation vote in the Senate, to assure bipartisan consensus. The board would have its own budget and autonomy, like the Federal Reserve. It would set the basic rules for running federal elections: design the registration system, produce the cards, pick the voting machines and design a uniform federal ballot.