Carter-Baker Commission on Election Reform

Submitted by Bill Crosier on September 19, 2005 - 3:14pm. ::

The Carter-Baker Commission on Election Reform, which met at Rice University in Houston on June 30, has completed their report, which lists recommendations needed to improve elections. See the AP article below, and at the end there's a link to the commission's web site, where you can download the entire report or individual sections.

At first glance, it looks like a step in the right direction, especially in calling for paper trails for ballots and recognizing problems with voter disenfranchisement. However, it calls for some changes that are likely to cause more problems. John Conyers says "I am shocked that this Commission has decided to take us several giant steps back in the march for voting rights by recommending a national ID requirement for voters." Read Conyers' statement at:

Also see a statement by Congressmen Conyers and Lewis, asking other members of Congress to oppose a discriminatory ID requirement that the Carter-Baker commission called for:

Read and let us know what you think. Please post comments to our new election reform e-mail list. If you are not already on that list, go to
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Panel Recommends Ways to Improve Elections

Published: September 19, 2005

Filed at 2:16 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Electronic voting machines should leave a paper trail of ballots cast and the government should provide free photo IDs to nondrivers to help check voting eligibility, a commission on election reform recommends.

The private commission, created to suggest ways to improve the electoral process, also favors four regional primaries to be held after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Also, states should develop registration systems that allow easy checks of voters from one state to another, according to the report by the bipartisan panel led by former President Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report, which makes 87 recommendations, ahead of its presentation Monday to President Bush.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform had to balance concerns about better access for voters and worries about preventing voter fraud.

''Americans are losing confidence in elections,'' Carter and Baker wrote. ''While we do not face a crisis today, we need to address the problems of our electoral system.''

Voter confidence dropped after the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. The outcome was delayed for weeks because of problems with ballots in Florida.

Congress responded with the Help America Vote Act, signed into law in 2002, that allowed spending of several billion dollars to help states update voting systems, streamline voter registration and provide voter and poll worker education.

Yet in the 2004 race between Bush and Democrat John Kerry, there were claims of voting problems, especially in Ohio. Complaints included limited access to voting machines, difficulties finding proper voting precincts and the accuracy of vote totals in precincts using electronic machines.

Among the commission's recommendations are:

--Congress should pass a law to require voter-verifiable paper audit trails on all electronic voting machines.

--The presidential primary system should be reorganized into four regional primaries, held after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. A regional primary would take place each month from March to June.

--All ''legitimate domestic and international election observers'' should be granted unrestricted access to the election process, within the rules of the election.

--News organizations should voluntarily refrain from projecting any presidential election results in any state until all polls have closed in 48 states, with Alaska and Hawaii excluded.

--States should prohibit senior election officials from serving or assisting others' political campaigns in a partisan way.

--States should establish uniform procedures for the counting of provisional ballots, which voters can use when there are questions about their registration.

Organizing the commission's work is the American University Center for Democracy and Election Management, in association with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, the Carter Center and


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Submitted by Bill Crosier on September 19, 2005 - 6:02pm.

Here's a minority report on the Carter-Baker report. This dissenting opinion is from Spencer Overton, one of the members of the Commission. Overton is a professor at The George Washington University Law School who specializes in election law.

First paragraph:
"The Commission's "Real ID" recommendation is more restrictive than the photo ID proposal rejected by the Carter-Ford Commission in 2001, and more extreme than any ID requirement adopted in any state to date. The Commission's proposal is so excessive that it would prevent eligible voters from proving their identity with even a valid U.S. passport or a U.S. military photo ID card."

For details, see:

Submitted by Bill Crosier on September 19, 2005 - 4:07pm.

From today's New York Times (

September 19, 2005
Panel Proposes New Calendar for Primaries

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 - A private commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III is proposing new steps to strengthen state election procedures and recommending that Congress require the political parties to hold four regional presidential primaries in election years rather than allowing states to hold primaries whenever they wish.

The bipartisan panel, called the Commission on Federal Election Reform, said it was responding to flaws in the system exposed by the elections of 2000 and 2004.

"We should have an electoral system," the commission declared, "where registering to vote is convenient, voting is efficient and pleasant, voting machines work properly, fraud is deterred and disputes are handled fairly and expeditiously."

Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker, a top official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, plan to deliver the report on Monday to President Bush and Congressional leaders. It went to news organizations last week with the understanding that the material would not be published until Monday.

"The American people are losing confidence in the system, and they want electoral reform," Mr. Carter said in a statement.

These are the main recommendations:

-States, not local jurisdictions, should be in charge of voter registration, and state registration lists should be interconnected so voters could be purged automatically from the rolls in one state when they registered in another.

-Voters should be required to present photo ID cards at the polls, and states should provide free cards to voters without driver's licenses.

-States should make registration and voting more convenient with innovations like mobile registration vans and voting by mail and on the Internet.

-Electronic voting machines should make paper copies for auditing.

-In presidential election years, after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the other states should hold regional primaries and caucuses at monthly intervals in March, April, May and June, with the order rotated.

The recommendations sought to strike a balance between the parties' priorities. Republicans worry about voter fraud and favor photo ID's. Democrats support easier registration and ballot access.

In the aftermath of the debacle in Florida in 2000, which put the outcome of the presidential election in doubt for more than a month, a public commission headed by Mr. Carter and former President Gerald R. Ford recommended an overhaul of the nation's election system. Many of the commission's proposals, including provisional ballots for those whose eligibility was challenged, became part of the Help America Vote Act, which Congress approved and President Bush signed in 2002.

But the 2004 election exposed more flaws. Some election offices did not properly process registration applications or mail absentee ballots on time. There were reports of voter intimidation and complaints that registration lists had been improperly purged. Computers malfunctioned. Evidence of voter fraud arose.

Accusations of fraud and misconduct were rife after the race for governor in Washington. Christine Gregoire finished ahead by 129 votes, and the legal challenge was not resolved until June.

The new panel was organized by American University to address those problems. Its 21 members include politicians from both parties and others with election experience.

In the 2004 campaign, state primaries and caucuses were held earlier than ever, and the nominees were effectively chosen by March.

Everything happens so quickly nowadays in primary campaigns, the commission asserted, that "most Americans have no say in the selection of presidential nominees."

The commission said it was worthwhile for Iowa and New Hampshire to continue to vote first because "they test the candidates by genuine retail, door-to-door campaigning." But four regional contests afterward, the panel said, would "expand participation in the process" and "give voters the chance to closely evaluate the presidential candidates over a three- to four-month period."

If the parties do not change the primary and caucus system by 2008, the commission said, "Congress should legislate the change."

The idea of regional primaries has often been broached over the years but has never been adopted because states have been unwilling to surrender the freedom to have their primaries when they pleased.