Local elections officials across the U.S. should expand early voting, allow online registration and do a better job enforcing federal election laws, according to a new report by a presidential panel charged with recommending fixes for election problems that have plagued American voters. Some of the recommendations in the 70-page report, which was presented on Wednesday to Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, are in sync with changes states are already making. In Florida, for example, where “hanging chads” entered the American lexicon in 2000 and there were long lines at polling places in 2012, lawmakers recently reversed a shortening of the early voting period and simplified ballots. The moves by Republican-controlled Florida are part of a broader trend.
For several years, Republicans in many states pushed laws designed to make voting more difficult, arguing that such restrictions were needed to prevent voter fraud. In the last two years, however, states controlled by both parties have expanded or eased access to the polls, in some cases by pursuing strategies included in Wednesday’s report. Last year, for example, lawmakers in GOP-controlled Virginia created an online voter registration system.
However, Virginia also approved a stricter voter ID law—stepping into one of the most contentious election-related issues. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration declined to weigh in on whether voters should have to show photo identification at polling places, though it called on states to educate voters about what they will need to cast their ballots.
Just last week, a state judge in Pennsylvania struck down that state’s voter ID law, saying it was an unconstitutional burden on voters lacking proper IDs. However, other court rulings have upheld voter ID laws in other states.