President Obama’s proposed commission on electoral reform, which seeks to improve voting efficiency and reduce long wait times for voters, is producing heated criticism from advocates on both the right and the left. Some conservatives view the initiative as federal overreaching on an issue that is rightly the province of states, while some voting rights advocates say that the president’s proposed commission is a too-timid response to what they see as a huge problem. “Setting up a commission is not a bold step; it is business as usual,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters. Critics of the commission say it doesn’t match the severity of the problem. “The president could have done much better by pointing to real solutions, like that in legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill to require early voting, set limits on waiting times, provide for portable voter registration and set up secure online voter registration.” Conservatives said the commission infringes on local control of the voting process. “I do not support the president’s proposal to appoint yet another national commission to study solutions to the problem of long lines at polling places that seems to be confined to very few states,” Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.) said in a statement, adding that she is opposed to national mandates.
Hans von Spakovsky, who served in the George W. Bush administration as a Justice Department official and a member of the Federal Election Commission, and is now a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, wrote a blog post Thursday morning criticizing Obama’s move. He argued that the average wait time nationally for voters during the 2012 election was only 14 minutes and that the country already has a bipartisan election panel, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
“Obama’s commission may just be a stalking horse to implement liberals’ latest partisan fantasies of automatic and election day voter registration — so-called reforms that will stifle real improvements and endanger the integrity of our elections,” he wrote.
… Election-law observers say states are experimenting with ways to make voting easier, including online voter registration and computerized databases that keep track of a voter’s information when he moves. “The challenge for the commission will be to make sure that the participants are going to approach this in a constructive and data-driven way. If it’s ideological, the commission won’t accomplish much and the states won’t listen,” said David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “But if they bring together research-focused people who are not looking at elections as how a winner is determined, but who will look at it as how our democracy works, then they are going to find that the states are going to be receptive to their recommended solutions.”