In his November victory speech, President Obama noted long lines at the polls. “By the way, we’ve got to fix that,” he remarked. This week, the president advanced significantly the important task of election reform by announcing the creation of an independent Presidential Commission on Election Administration.
The commission will be chaired by Bob Bauer, former general counsel for the Obama campaign, and Ben Ginsberg, former election lawyer for the Romney camp. They should examine carefully recent reports of what went wrong on Election Day, some voters still casting ballots at midnight.
Both the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Brennan Center for Justice have amply documented widespread and severe problems preventing equal access to the ballot. It is important that the commission take the same comprehensive approach, looking at problems ranging from archaic, paper-based voter registration to an insufficient number of voting machines allocated to some precincts.
Early, in-person voting sites, which are growing more popular, also were hit by long lines, studies showing that long waits discourage turnout. One, by Ohio State University, estimated that in Florida, more than 200,000 may have been discouraged from voting by long lines on Election Day.
As the president correctly has recognized, that’s an unacceptable situation, one that demands practical and bipartisan action.