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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, September 20
 
Little Confidence in "Building Confidence"
The Carter-Baker Report "Building Confidence in U.S. Elections" has generated an enormous amount of attention since its release yesterday. My impression is that the response has been overwhelmingly critical, primarily as a result of its recommendation to require voters to show "REAL ID" if they wish to have their votes counted. Here's a summary of some of the opinion so far:

- Dissenting commission member Spencer Overton has explained his disagreement with the "REAL ID" proposal and has voiced his objections to the process that the commission followed -- including limiting published dissents to a paltry 250 words. Along with the Brennan Center for Justice, Professor Overton has written a lengthy rebuttal to the commission's recommendations on ID and felon voting.

- Voting rights and good government groups, including the League of Women Voters, ACLU, and the National Association of Latino Election Officials, have condemned the voter ID recommendation.

- Today's N.Y. Times includes an editorial entitled "Denying Access to the Ballot" which argues that "the commission led by James Baker III and former President Jimmy Carter has come up with a plan that is worse than no reform at all. "

- The Washington Post, while supporting some features of the report, asserts that the ID requirement would "do more harm than good."

- While supporting the commission's recommendation for nonpartisan election administration, Rick Hasen criticizes the ID requirement as likely to "increase the divide over the fairness of election administration in the U.S." In a Christian Science Monitor article, Prof. Hasen is quoted as saying that the commissioner "squandered their political capital."

- Thad Hall and Mike Alvarez also support the nonpartisan election administration recommendation, but are concerned about the ID proposal.

- Tova Wang of the Century Foundation argues that the commission report's recommendations are "bad fixes for the wrong problems."

- I've expressed my own opposition to what I take to be cornerstones of the Commission's recommendations -- voter ID and the voter verified paper audit trail -- in yesterday's blog post and today's weekly comment.

- There's even a new website, http://www.carterbaker.com/, devoted to criticism of the commission's' report.

This is just a sampling, but you get the idea.

The only enthusiastically positive response I've seen comes from inaptly named "American Center for Voting Rights." As I've previously discussed here, this group published a report in August that -- based mostly on unconfirmed news reports -- attempted to paint the picture that fraud is rampant in the black community. So it should come as no great surprise that ACVR is one of the few unqualified supporters of the report, calling it "a real step forward in the election reform debate." With friends like those . . .

It's most unfortunate that the commission found it necessary to include its recommendations on voter ID and the VVPAT. This was a major error in judgment. Some of the commission's other proposals -- foremost among them the ones on nonpartisan election administration -- have the potential to effect genuine improvements in our election system. At least for me, the potential damage that would result from the ID proposal made it necessary to point out the reasons why this recommendation is so deeply flawed. Had the "REAL ID" recommendation been left out of the report, many of us could have focused on those provisions of the commission's report that are more worthy of implementation. As it stands, the commission's recommendations, the good ones as well as the bad ones, may well be dead on arrival.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University