President Barack Obama’s commission to improve the voting experience in U.S. elections will hold its first public meeting with officials in Louisville this week.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was formed this past March in response to a chorus of voters who complained of long waiting periods and confusion during the 2012 election.
An investigation of better election practices will be conducted by the group, and a report will be submitted to the president this fall.
The commission is set to hold four nationwide hearings on improving U.S. elections, but will convene in downtown Louisville this Saturday at the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers’s annual conference.
Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson was appointed to the 10-member commission. He says meeting with local officials who work with voters directly is important to any overhaul nationally.
“The local election administrators are the front lines of elections,” he says. “We can’t accomplish the task we’ve been assigned by the president without talking to these local administrators. They’re dealing with the budget cuts and difficulty with recruiting poll workers, and the biggest task for us is to try to reduce the line issue. And they’re the ones who have to battle that the most.”
Observers have been calling for serious election reforms since the 2000 presidential contest, and have decried the lack of a streamlined system. Several media reports during the fall election showed polling stations had issues such as malfunctioning voting machines and extremely long lines.
Congress and the states enact election laws, but no agency is charged with overseeing voting rules in the country. Often city and county officials are the ones left to run election procedures, which creates a myriad of different rules and policies across the country.
“Every night before elections everyone involved with elections says a little pray asking for large margins,” says Grayson. “Because when it is really close it’s sometimes little things that can crop up. I think the country is in a better place than it was 12 years ago. But we know some jurisdictions handle long lines, machine issues and military voting better than other areas. And so we hope with a commission likes this to come up with those best practices and get them implemented across the country.”
The commission isn’t charged with recommending new elections laws, but will focus on improving the administration across the country. Among the topics expected to be up for discussion at this week’s conference will be how to handle elections during a natural disaster.
The conference is scheduled for June 29 at 1 p.m., and will be held at the Galt House Hotel, 140 North Fourth Street.
The commission is co-chaired by Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsberg, who were the general counsel to the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns respectively.