The Corner

State of Confusion on Voting Rights

President Obama brought up liberals’ favorite topic tonight: voting rights. He claimed that we are not doing enough to “make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.” That includes “the most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote.” In fact, we are “betraying our ideals” when any American has to “wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot.”

He announced a “nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.” However, he is not putting election officials who have actual experience in election administration in charge of the commission. Instead, he is putting two campaign attorneys in charge, one from his campaign (former White House counsel Bob Bauer) and another from Governor Romney’s campaign (Ben Ginsburg). That is quite revealing of what Obama considers to be “nonpartisan.”

While there may have been a small number of Americans who had to wait for long periods to vote in 2012, the vast majority did not. A recent study of the 2012 election reported that the average wait time nationally was only 14 minutes. The longest times were in Florida (45 minutes), and one of the shortest was in California (6 minutes). In 2008, when we had the highest turnout in a presidential election since 1960, we had similarly short wait times. The Pew Center released a study in December reporting that “blacks voted at a higher rate this year than other minority groups and for the first time in history may also have voted at a higher rate than whites,” so it is pretty clear that there were no real problems in the 2012 election that kept the President’s base out of the polls. Methinks all the talk of long lines in the last month is designed to justify a federal takeover of elections that would do a lot of other mischief.

Besides, we already had such an election-reform effort back in 2005, the Baker-Carter Commission, which made a lot of recommendations for improving our elections. It is also hard to trust a president whose attorney general has tried to stop state efforts to improve the security and integrity of the election process by implementing reforms such as voter-ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements for registration.

In any event, it is local governments that run polling places, hire precinct workers, and decide how many voting machines and registered voters to place in every polling site. Those decisions determine how long lines are on voting day. The vast majority of election officials do a good job at this, as demonstrated by the average wait time. Those who don’t tend to be in large urban areas — the cities controlled by the president’s own party — and they simply need to do a better job and put more resources into the administration of their elections. There is no mystery about how to do this, and the last thing we need is another federal commission led by campaign lawyers micromanaging elections and imposing one-size-fits-all policies on the entire country. Local election problems don’t need to be federalized.


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