Monday, August 24, 2015

Hamilton: It’s time for election management across the country to be in non-partisan hands.

Lee Hamilton   is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

He writes:

  • Generally speaking, Democrats have emphasized making ballot access easier; Republicans have focused on ballot integrity. Both need to be addressed if we’re to build the legislative support necessary to achieve needed changes in our electoral system. We have to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.We need to modernize the system. Democracies like Australia and Canada invest serious money in their election infrastructure and conduct widely acclaimed elections. Ours, by contrast, is fragile and uneven. We’ve already had one presidential election decided by courts on a question of failed infrastructure. More embarrassing cases will certainly occur.

  • We also need to recognize that the days are long past when it was okay to place election administration in the hands of partisan state or local politicians. They will contest for power and use the system to influence the process. It’s time for election management across the country to be in non-partisan hands.

  • The aim of reforming the system is to make voting convenient, efficient, and pleasant, to make sure the mechanics work as they ought, and to ensure that disputes are handled fairly. This means that state governments, not localities, should be responsible for the accuracy and quality of voter lists and for educating the public about voting. Often, local governments have neither the expertise nor the funds to do this effectively.

  • Finally, there’s the question of voter ID. It’s legitimate to ensure that a person presenting himself or herself at the voting site is the same one named on the voting list. But requiring an ID needs to be accompanied by aggressive efforts to find voters and provide free access to the voting booth. Instead, a lot of states that have instituted ID requirements have dismissed the idea that this imposes a responsibility to reach out to voters and make IDs available to those who can’t afford it. They’re subverting representative democracy.  
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