Ben Ginsberg

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Voting Blogs: PCEA Co-Chairs Call on New EAC to Take “Quick Action” on Voting Technology | Election Academy

Last week, I engaged in what my friend and colleague Rick Hasen called “irrational exuberance” regarding the confirmation of a 3-member quorum at the EAC. [I plead “giddy as charged.”] I did note that there was work to be done, however, and already the new commissioners are hearing about what they can and should do once they formally take office. PCEA co-chairs Ben Ginsberg and Bob Bauer have written letters to the new commissioners laying out some immediate short-term steps they can take to get the nation’s voting technology testing and certification system back up to speed. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Matt Weil – himself a former EAC staffer – has a summary of those letters on the BPC blog:

[M]ultiple years without a[n EAC] quorum have led to such uncertainty in the voting system technology market that election officials are worried that they may be forced to purchase machines performing to decade-old standards for the foreseeable future. There are many needed reforms to the voting system standards and to the federal government’s testing and certification program. BPC will continue to provide input about those long-term reforms.

Full Article: PCEA Co-Chairs Call on New EAC to Take "Quick Action" on Voting Technology - Election Academy.

National: Long lines, disputed counts: Why U.S. elections stumble | Detroit Free Press

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.

Full Article: Long lines, disputed counts: Why U.S. elections stumble | Detroit Free Press | freep.com.

National: New bill aims to make sure no one waits over half an hour to vote | MSNBC

President Obama said last month that no one should have to wait more than half an hour to vote. Now two Democratic senators are introducing a bill aimed at making that pledge a reality. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida, is the first effort to act on the recommendations of a bipartisan presidential commission, unveiled last month. “In a democracy, you’re supposed to make it easier and less of hardship for people to vote, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” said Nelson in a statement sent out Wednesday evening. 

Full Article: New bill aims to make sure no one waits over half an hour to vote | MSNBC.

National: Election Panel: Long Lines Were Management Problem | NPR

The commission President Obama appointed last year to figure out how to fix long lines at the polls and other election problems has sought to steer clear of the many partisan land mines surrounding how Americans vote. The two co-chairmen of the panel continued to that navigation Wednesday as they presented their unanimous recommendations to the Senate Rules Committee. When asked by Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota whether some states were doing things intentionally to disenfranchise voters — like limiting early-voting days — commission co-chairman and Democratic election lawyer Bob Bauer responded diplomatically. First, he said the commission was struck by how much it had heard from both Democrats and Republicans, “once the lights were off and the doors were closed,” about their desire to improve the way elections are run. And then he told senators that any partisan plots to disenfranchise voters would be far less likely to succeed if states adopted some of the changes proposed by the bipartisan panel, like improving the accuracy of voter registration lists.

Full Article: Election Panel: Long Lines Were Management Problem : It's All Politics : NPR.

Editorials: The new conservative assault on early voting: More Republicans, fewer voters. | RickHasen/Slate

It is easy to dismiss the latest conservative rants against early voting as just one more way for Republicans to try to gain advantage over Democrats at the polls. But something much more troubling may also be at work: Some opponents of early voting are promoting the view that a smaller (and skewed) electorate is better for democracy. In the past few weeks, a flurry of conservatives have attacked early voting, from Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis in Politico to George Will in the Washington Post to J. Christian Adams in the Washington Times.  The timing is no coincidence: The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which President Obama created to look at issues with long lines and other election problems, recently issued its much-anticipated report. The report is full of many sound suggestions for improving our elections, and one of the key recommendations is to expand early voting, either in person, through absentee ballots, or both. There’s good reason to follow the commission’s recommendation: Early voting takes pressure off administering the vote on Election Day. It helps avert long lines and aids election administrators in working out kinks. Voters like early voting because it lets them pick a convenient time to vote, when there are not work or child-care conflicts.

Full Article: The new conservative assault on early voting: More Republicans, fewer voters..

Editorials: Commission Wants to Make Voting More Like Disneyland and Less Like the DMV | Ben Jacobs/The Daily Beast

If a presidential commission has its way, the traditional Election Day is dead. The “traditional election day model 12 hours from x in morning to x at night is not feasible,” Bob Bauer, one of two co-chairs of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, said in a panel at George Washington University School of Law on Wednesday, just hours after presenting the commission’s report to President Obama. The commission–popularly known as the Bauer-Ginsberg Commission after its two chairs, Bauer, a top Democratic lawyer, and Ben Ginsberg, the leading Republican election litigator—delivered its recommendations unanimously in a report commissioned in the aftermath of numerous reports of long lines and delays during the 2012 election. The commission dodged issues normally associated with partisan battles, such as voter ID and the Voting Rights Act. Instead it focused on the nuts and bolts of how to get voters in and out of their polling places quickly and efficiently, setting a standard of a half-hour as the longest anyone should wait to vote.

Full Article: Commission Wants to Make Voting More Like Disneyland and Less Like the DMV - The Daily Beast.

National: Obama commission encourages early vote expansion | Associated Press

Responding to frustratingly long lines in the last national election, a presidential commission on Wednesday encouraged expansion of early voting and said no American should have to wait more than half an hour to cast a ballot. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was presenting President Barack Obama with a list of recommendations to reduce the wait and make voting more efficient. The commission warned of an “impending crisis in voting technology” as machines across the country purchased after the 2000 election recount wear out with no federal funds on the horizon to replace them. “We could have even more problems in the future if we don’t act now,” Obama said after receiving their 112-page report in the White House’s Roosevelt Room. But fixing the problems will be easier said than done, since no federal commission can force changes to balloting run by about 8,000 different jurisdictions. Funds for upgrades are scarce. Not only that, there have been sharp differences in recent years between the parties on what approach to employ. Fights over voting process can — and sometimes have — been as partisan and bitter as those associated with the redrawing of political boundary lines.

Full Article: Obama commission encourages early vote expansion - Yahoo News.

National: Obama sees bipartisan voter access proposal next year | Reuters

President Barack Obama said on Thursday he expects a blue-ribbon panel to soon propose reforms that both parties can back to address concerns over the long waiting times some American voters experienced at the polls in 2012. “Early next year, we’re going to put forward what we know will be a bipartisan effort or a bipartisan proposal to encourage people to vote,” he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” “You can’t say you take pride in American democracy, American constitutionalism, American exceptionalism, and then you’re doing everything you can to make it harder for people to vote as opposed to easier for people to vote.”

Full Article: Obama sees bipartisan voter access proposal next year - News - AM 590 - WKZO Everything Kalamazoo.

National: Blue-ribbon group pushes for 2016 debate changes | Politico

Top officials from past presidential campaigns have quietly formed a group to push for major changes in the general election debates, with recommendations expected by late spring. The working group is questioning the debates’ format, moderator-selection process and location: Might a TV studio make more sense than a college town? Members said a major goal is to make more allowance for changing technology and the rise of social media. A likely recommendation is an earlier start for the debates, in response to the increase in absentee voting. Members include the longtime lead debate negotiator for each party: Bob Bauer for Democratic nominees and Ben Ginsberg for the Republicans. So the Annenberg Working Group on Presidential General Election Debates could have a profound effect on the signature fall events of the race for the White House. The group’s co-chairs were top debate-prep advisers to each of the 2012 nominees: Anita Dunn for President Obama, and Beth Myers for Mitt Romney.

Full Article: Blue-ribbon group pushes for 2016 debate changes - Mike Allen - POLITICO.com.

Voting Blogs: Tech, Training, and Tricks: Why We Should Expect a Good Deal More than “Nothing” from the President’s Commission | Heather Gerken/Election Law Blog

Jonathan Bernstein has insisted that we should “expect nothing” from the president’s electoral administration commission, headed by Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg.  It’s not a bad prediction for any pundit, because “nothing” is pretty much what we’ve been getting out of Washington for a good long while.  Moreover, I wasn’t sure that anyone was more cynical than I am about the possibility of election reform, so it’s nice to have company.  As I’ve written elsewhere, getting “from here to there” with election reform is incredibly difficult in the current political climate.  Nonetheless, I think that Bernstein is wrong and that it’s worth saying why.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have occasionally been asked by the commission to provide technical expertise and, like most of the people in my field, know and respect both Bauer and Ginsberg). Your view of the commission will depend on what you think it’s realistic to expect on the reform front.  Bernstein, much to his credit, candidly admits that he wasn’t sure what President Obama should have done in the wake of the 2012 election.  He suggests that Obama should have pushed for legislation in the hope of slipping it into an omnibus bill, although he ruefully admits it “probably would have died.”  (On that prediction, I’d just omit the “probably.”) Or perhaps, says Bernstein, Obama should have pushed to draft “model legislation” for the states.  (This doesn’t strike me as any more likely to succeed; it’s hard to see why state legislators will pass meaningful reform given that they are no less self-interested than members of Congress.)  Bernstein nonetheless thinks that a dead bill that squeaked through the Senate or model legislation for the states will do more to reform our system than the president’s commission will.

Full Article: Tech, Training, and Tricks: Why We Should Expect a Good Deal More than “Nothing” from the President’s Commission | Election Law Blog.

National: Federal panel urged to reform election rules | Philadelphia Inquirer

Ellen Kaplan delivered a blunt message Wednesday to members of a presidential blue-ribbon panel on election reform. The 2012 vote in Philadelphia was a “national embarrassment” spoiled by massive confusion, partisanship, and mismanagement, said Kaplan, policy director of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy. She pointed to numbers such as the 26,986 provisional ballots cast, more than 12,000 of them by registered voters who should have been allowed to use voting machines, and almost 100 Republican poll inspectors who “were not permitted to sit” by their Democratic counterparts and had to get court orders. “Perhaps,” she added, in what could be a touch of overstatement, “the worst-run election in the city’s history.”

Full Article: Federal panel urged to reform election rules.

National: Presidential commission probes Florida voting lines, which study shows were longest for Hispanics | Miami Herald

Hispanic voters waited longer at the polls last November than any other ethnic group, a statewide study has concluded, with black voters also experiencing longer delays than whites. The study, submitted Friday in Coral Gables to a bipartisan election reform commission created by President Barack Obama, found that precincts with a greater proportion of Hispanic voters closed later on Nov. 6 than precincts with predominantly white ones. In some cases, blacks also had longer waits than whites. The 10-member Presidential Commission on Election Administration met at a day-long session at the University of Miami to hear from Florida elections supervisors, political science professors and the public about how the government can help avoid delays at the polls. “Everyone we’ve talked to from all levels, from all disciplines, says you can’t have a one-size-fit-all solution,” said Ben Ginsberg, who co-chairs the commission with Bob Bauer. Both are Washington D.C.-based elections attorneys with extensive experience advising presidential candidates and political parties.

Full Article: Presidential commission probes Florida voting lines, which study shows were longest for Hispanics - Miami-Dade - MiamiHerald.com.

National: President’s election commission heads to four states | Yahoo! News

A White House commission tasked with making voting improvements after lengthy wait times were reported in the 2012 election is hitting the road. The president’s Commission on Election Administration, which met for the first time on Friday, announced it will hold upcoming hearings in four states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio. Co-chair Bob Bauer, President Barack Obama’s former counsel, said they will hold “a public meetings process around the country that enables us to hear from election officials, from experts and from citizens in affected communities about the voting experience and their perspective on the issues they should be covering.” Bauer and co-chair Ben Ginsberg, former counsel for Mitt Romney, invited election experts and members of the public to participate. “Please help us to ferret out the information we need,” Bauer said. Hearing specifics are still slim. Known so far: They are scheduled for June 28 at the University of Miami, Aug. 8 in Denver, Sept. 4 in Philadelphia and Sept. 20 somewhere in Ohio.

Full Article: President’s election commission heads to four states | The Ticket - Yahoo! News.

National: Obama’s Elections Panel Not Expected to Back Major Reforms | Hispanic Business

A commission named by President Barack Obama to address the problem of long lines on Election Day had its first meeting last week — but few observers held out hope for major reform. Its first session Friday lasted less than an hour and drew fewer than 50 people. And even its co-chair downplayed expectations. “We will not be providing legislative recommendations,” said Ben Ginsberg, an attorney for the Mitt Romney campaign tapped by Obama to co-chair the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Instead, Ginsberg said the 10-member panel would be devising “best practices” to help states improve the efficiency of elections and registration while reducing wait times at the ballot box.

Full Article: Obama's Elections Panel Not Expected to Back Major Reforms - HispanicBusiness.com.

National: Obama election administration commission to hold Miami hearing | POLITICO.com

The commission President Barack Obama is setting up to address problems with election administration plans to hold one of its first meetings in the city that appeared to be ground zero for excessive delays in the 2012 vote: Miami. The panel will convene at the federal courthouse in Miami on Friday, June 28 to hear testimony from “local, county and state election officials,” as well as “comments by interested members of the public,” according to a notice set to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register. In November, some Miami voters spent more than five hours waiting to case their ballots, according to the Miami Herald. Obama promised action on the subject in his election night victory speech.

National: Democratic Senators to voting panel: Fix the long lines | MSNBC

A group of Democratic senators is urging President Obama’s election commission to take “strong steps” to ensure that voters are no longer forced to wait hours to cast their ballots, as occurred last November in some areas of the country. “The existence of long lines…defective voting machines, and the lack of staff and adequate resources at polling locations created inexcusable conditions for voters,” Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Chris Coons of Delaware, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Bill Nelson of Florida said in a letter to the commission’s chairmen sent Tuesday. “Lines created by these conditions are forcing citizens to decide between casting their ballot or caring for a sick child, or earning a paycheck to feed their families. This is a choice that no citizen should have to face.”

Full Article: Dem senators to voting panel: Fix the long lines — MSNBC.

National: Obama appoints members to voting rights panel | The Hill

President Obama on Tuesday announced the eight new members who will round out his presidential commission on voting, jointing Bob Bauer, the general counsel to the president’s reelection campaign, and Ben Ginsberg, the former general counsel to Mitt Romney’s presidential effort, on the bipartisan panel. The appointments include Trey Grayson, Larry Loma, Michele Coleman Mayes, Ann McGeehan, Tammy Patrick and Christopher Thomas — all former state-level elections officials — as well as Brian Britton, a Walt Disney World executive, and Joe Echevarria, the general counsel for the New York Public library. Obama announced the panel in his State of the Union address, saying that with long voting lines, the country was “betraying our ideals.”

Full Article: Obama appoints members to voting rights panel - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room.

National: White House to set president’s election commission in motion next month | Yahoo! News

We know little about President Barack Obama’s new Commission on Election Administration except for its structure, as outlined in the executive order that explains its task is to improve voting in America, and the names of its two appointed co-chairs: Obama’s former counsel Bob Bauer and Republican attorney Ben Ginsberg, who worked for Mitt Romney. But while it has yet to explain its methodology or get together a full staff (the executive order directs that no more than nine members are to be appointed) the commission—an idea born on election night 2012 when Obama declared we “have to fix” long lines at the polls—is about to get to work. Steve Croley, deputy White House counsel, told Yahoo News the White House is gearing up to announce the committee’s full roster next month and set the group to work. The committee, he said, will be a mix of individuals including “several people who basically run elections for a living” at the state, county or local levels, in addition to those working on the private side. No other details were offered about commissioners. 

Full Article: White House to set president’s election commission in motion next month | The Ticket - Yahoo! News.

National: Can Obama’s new panel defuse the voting wars? | MSNBC

In recent years, the issue of voting rights has exploded  into a high-octane partisan battle, with Republicans backing laws restricting access to the ballot, Democrats loudly crying foul, and no resolution in sight. But a new presidential panel aimed at fixing problems in the U.S. voting system could offer a way around the stalemate. Following up on an Election Night pledge to fix the long lines that kept some voters waiting over seven hours to cast a ballot, President Obama last week formally created the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, and gave it a broad mandate to improve the voting experience. “When any Americans—no matter where they live or what their party—are denied that right [to vote] simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals,” Obama said in his State of the Union address.

Full Article: Can Obama’s new panel defuse the voting wars? — MSNBC.

National: Obama Forms Presidential Commission To Study Voting Problems | NPR

President Obama has established a new bipartisan commission on election administration, something he promised to do in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address. He signed an executive order Thursday making it official. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration is being headed by two longtime Washington attorneys, Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg. Bauer was general counsel to the president’s re-election campaign and is also Obama’s former White House counsel. Ginsberg was national counsel to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and also to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns.

Full Article: Obama Forms Presidential Commission To Study Voting Problems : It's All Politics : NPR.