Obama creates voting commission


Virginia residents wait in line in the hours before dawn to vote in 2012. (Jim Lo Scalzo -- EPA)

As promised in the State of the Union, President Obama has signed an executive order establishing a voting commission to improve access to and efficiency at the polls, a response to the hours-long lines some voters suffered through in the fall.

The commission will have nine members, appointed by the president. The two co-chairs are the chief lawyers representing the candidates in the 2012 election: Ben Ginsburg of the Mitt Romney campaign and Ben Bauer of the Obama campaign.

Their report is "intended to serve as a best practices guide for state and local election officials to improve voters' experience at the polls under their existing election laws," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.

Among other things, the commission will investigate the management and number of polling places, the training and number of poll workers, voting machine technology, provisional and absentee ballot issues and ballot simplicity.

Obama is asking for a report six months after the group's first meeting. The commission will dissolve 30 days after its final report.

“When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals,” the president said in his address to Congress. “We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.”

The commission idea has drawn criticism from both the right and the left. Some conservatives see it as federal government overreach; some liberals dismiss it as a timid approach to a major problem.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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