Shorter Lines, Simpler Ballots: Obama-Appointed Panel Seeks to 'Improve Voters' Experience at the Polls'

By Susan Jones | March 29, 2013 | 6:14am EDT

Voters wait to vote in Miami in the 2012 presidential election. (AP Photo)

( - By executive order, President Obama on Thursday established a nine-member commission to study ways of shortening lines and simplifying ballots at the nation's polling places.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration will issue a "best practices guide" for state and local election officials to "improve voters' experience at the polls under their existing election laws," a White House spokesman said.

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The panel, to be co-chaired by former Rep. Bob Bauer (attorney for the Obama campaign) and Ben Ginsburg (attorney for the Romney campaign), is "advisory in nature," and it must submit a final report within six months of its first public meeting.

The executive order says the commission "shall identify best practices and otherwise make recommendations to promote the efficient administration of elections in order to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without undue delay, and to improve the experience of voters facing other obstacles in casting their ballots, such as members of the military, overseas voters, voters with disabilities, and voters with limited English proficiency."

In doing so, the Commission is directed to consider the following:

-- the number, location, management, operation, and design of polling places;

-- the training, recruitment, and number of poll workers;

-- voting accessibility for uniformed and overseas voters;

-- the efficient management of voter rolls and poll books;

-- voting machine capacity and technology;

-- ballot simplicity and voter education;

-- voting accessibility for individuals with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and other special needs;

-- management of issuing and processing provisional ballots in the polling place on Election Day;

-- the issues presented by the administration of absentee ballot programs;

-- the adequacy of contingency plans for natural disasters and other emergencies that may disrupt elections; and

-- other issues related to the efficient administration of elections that the Co-Chairs agree are necessary and appropriate to the Commission's work.

President Obama first mentioned election reform in his 2013 State of the Union Address:

"We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. 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. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy."

President Obama opposes the idea of asking voters to present photo ID at their polling places.

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