Carter-Baker Commmission gets it partly right

By David
September 19, 2005

Update (Sept. 26) — Carter and Baker have issued a response to some of the criticism their report has received — their comments appeared in the NY Times on Sept. 23 and are available here.

As pointed out in today’s Washington Post, the Federal Commission on Election Reform (led by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James A. Baker III) issued its report today which recommends

[…] significant changes in how Americans vote, including photo IDs for all voters, verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines and impartial administration of elections.

Here in ACM’s Policy Office, we see the Carter-Baker report as a decidedly double-edged sword:

  • On the one hand, we applaud the call for voter-verified paper audit trails for electronic voting machines — a crucial component for sound, trustworthy voting systems, and something ACM has officially been calling for since 2004.
  • However, on the other hand, the commission also calls for the use of Real IDs (or non-driver’s-license equivalents of the newly mandated IDs) as voter identification cards. We’ve been active recently in highlighting some major concerns with the Real ID scheme.

The commission also recommends “top-down,” centralized, state-administered voter registration lists, criticizing “bottom-up” systems (wherein counties and municipalities maintain and administer their own voter registration lists but feed information “up” to their respective states) as being incapable “of providing a complete, accurate, current, and valid voter registration list” (p. 11). These issues (and more) will also be addressed in the report of an ACM study that is working currently to provide states with useful technical guidance on the statewide voter registration lists mandated by HAVA.

The commission’s report is available as one large (7.6 MB) PDF file here, while individual sections can be downloaded here.