President Obama talked about voting rights in the State of the Union address, claiming 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.”
While there may have been some Americans who waited 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.
And in fact, we already have a federal bipartisan election commission. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission was established in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act. It was tasked with recommending “best practices” in election administration to the states. But it is, in essence, a non-functioning agency: The seats of the four commissioners who run the agency have sat empty for a long time (they are supposed to be filled by the President), and the top two career slots, the general counsel and the staff director, also sit empty. So now President Obama wants to establish yet another election commission, bypassing the one we already have that has been idle—due to a lack of staffing that he is largely responsible for.
We also had an election reform commission back in 2005, the Baker–Carter Commission, whose findings were largely ignored. It is especially hard to have confidence in any commission Obama might appoint, given that his attorney general has tried to stop state election reform efforts like voter ID intended to improve the security and integrity of the election process.
Obama’s commission may just be a stalking horse to implement liberals’ latest partisan fantasies of automatic and election day voter registration—so-called reforms that will stifle real improvements and endanger the integrity of our elections.
Hans von Spakovsky is author with John Fund of Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.