American Voting Experience: A Laudable Report

It seems we have several surprisingly refreshing  Government reports in recent weeks, two on reigning in NSA spying, and now an excellent report on improving election administration, the election experience, and a contribution to realizing the ideals of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration <read>

Its long, yet refreshingly readable for the average citizen. The .pdf is 112 pages, yet the introduction and main body constitute a bit less at 84 pages. I have read it all, and so have many others.  Let me start with overall impressions:

  • It is readable tutorial covering several areas to a moderate level of depth and detail: Causes and cures for lines; The variety in voting methods, laws, and practices; The synergy between problems and solutions, especially improving registration systems; The need to soon replace aging systems and hardware; the systemic problems in making better systems available; The value, costs, challenges, and security tradeoffs expanding early voting; Serving Military and Overseas Voters responsively and responsibly.
  • The report remains true to its promise of staying within issues and solutions that can be agreed upon by members of both major parties.
  • Given its size, I find very very little to disagree with in the report. Two or three minor quibbles, too minor to mention.
  • There is a lot to be done in many many areas covered in the report, many details to be filled in. There in, will lie many issues to debate, potential for making things better, worse, or wasting huge sums with little actual change.
  • It is most detailed and potentially effective recommendation is in better online voter registration systems and cross checking between states for duplicate/out-of-date registrations and the benefits throughout the system.
  • Its best articulation of problems and opportunities are in the areas of reducing lines, pollworker training, pollworker recruiting and improving ballot design. Its all very common sense, but somehow the system got to be the way it is, and by-and-large not moving to solve the problems.
  • The toughest details to be determined are how to create, pay for, and determine the best way forward to truly better software, hardware, and manual systems.

Many will find a lot to like in the report. Some parts might be taken out of context as it often points out the benefits, costs, and risks of various solutions. Some will use the report to justify doing anything, such as their favored solution, to a problem. That said, we will likely be referencing many areas in the report going forward:

  • We completely agree with its take on Military and Overseas Voting, that recommends against online/Internet voting, yet effective online registration, ballot tracking, and ballot distribution systems.
  • We applaud its recognition that unlimited absentee voting or mail-in voting represents a significant risk for fraud, while early voting, voting centers, and in-person absentee voting can be safe.
  • We agree with its overview of the software/hardware challenges going forward. The problem may not be quite as imminent, yet the  challenges to get going and find good solutions will require a transformation, years of work in regulation, cooperation, and not so common sense between industry, computer scientists, other experts, officials, and government.

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