Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Carter-Baker commission recommends voting system improvements

Panel calls for improved voting lists, ID requirements (Monday, September 19, 2005, CNN.COM): Concerns a bipartisan commission chaired by Pres. Carter and James Baker. The commission was geared to making recommendations concerning the conduct of American elections.

What is the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform?

The Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform is a panel of distinguished civic and political leaders co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Dr. Robert Pastor, Director of American University's Center for Democracy and Election Management, serves as Executive Director of the Commission. The twenty-one members of the Commission represent a broad spectrum of the American political experience.

COMMISSION ON FEDERAL ELECTION REFORM

The full report and other information is available here: http://www.american.edu/ia/cfer/

The CNN article lists these as some of the recommendations:

  • Congress should pass a law requiring voter-verifiable paper audit trails on all electronic voting machines.
  • States should require voters to present photo IDs and offer free photo IDs to those who don't have drivers' licenses.
  • All "legitimate domestic and international election observers" should be granted unrestricted access to the election process, within the rules of the election.
  • News organizations should voluntarily refrain from projecting any presidential election results in any state until all polls have closed in all states but Alaska and Hawaii.
  • States should establish uniform procedures for the counting of provisional ballots, which voters can use when there are questions about their registration.
  • Also, states should develop registration systems that allow easy checks of voters from one state to another and the purging of outdated voter records

The article also discusses a recommendation by the private Commission on Federal Election Reform to change the primary system to schedule the primaries regionally. But it isn't clear from the article whether this recommendation was also made by the Carter Baker commission.

The theme I see is increased reliability of voter identification, and improved verifiability. I of course strongly support voter-verifiable paper trails.

For example if the election were conducted with a touch screen system, and the touch screen computer produced a paper card containing the votes. So long as the card is printed with a known font, font size, etc, then it's easily scannable by a computer, and at the same time is easily human readable. Hence, we would have the advantage of digitized information allowing a quick counting process, while at the same time giving the people comfort knowing their vote was registered properly and can be recounted easily.

But that leaves as an issue the red flag discussed yesterday. There's a concern with Deibolds tabulating computers whether or not there's security holes. You could have the front end of the system, the vote taking, be nice and orderly, but with insecure tabulating computers the election validity would still be unclear.

The commission was conducted with the assistance of: http://electiononline.org/