The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration released a series of recommendations Wednesday morning to avert the hours-long lines and chaos at the polls that has characterized the past several presidential elections. The suggested reforms, from expanded early voting to online registration, fly in the face of the voting restrictions passed and promoted by conservative lawmakers and activists.
The Commission, formed by an executive order after the chaotic 2012 election, found several issues at the root of long voting lines, including mismanagement, limited resources, long ballots, unreliable accommodations for non-English speakers and disabled voters, and the absence of a national voter registration list. Because of all these variables, a voter’s experience can vary dramatically depending on which polling place they are assigned. To fix these issues, the report calls for online voter registration in every state, as well as an interstate exchange of voting lists to make sure voter rolls are up to date. More technical reforms, such as updating voting machines and centralizing data collection, are also crucial for future elections, the report states.
It also focuses on expanding opportunities to vote. To prevent long lines and make voting as convenient as possible, early voting and mail-in ballots should become the norm in every state, according to the report.
Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted exactly the opposite election law changes in recent years. Cutting back early voting hours and lengthening ballots led to marathon lines in Ohio and Florida, where some would-be voters were still waiting in line at 1 am, long after the election had been determined. Prominent Florida Republicans later admitted that these voting restrictions were specifically intended to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Though the state ultimately went to Obama, the voter suppression tactics worked; an estimated 201,000 Floridians were discouraged from voting because of the long lines.
Florida is hardly alone in its voter suppression efforts; a recent study found that voting restrictions are more likely to be introduced in states where more people of color turn out to vote. Some of these states are already gearing up for the next election by cutting the number of absentee ballot drop-off sites, restricting voter registration, and purging the voter rolls of legitimate voters.