Non-Partisan Model Legislation
The Carter-Baker Commission in 2005 focused on the full gamut of electoral-related problems, but a central piece is the management of elections. At the current time, U.S. elections are managed at the municipal and county levels, and the principal authority at the state-level is a Secretary of State, who is almost always a very partisan individual with aspirations for higher office. When states turn control of their elections to partisan and elected politicians, usually the secretary of state, they create a conflict of interest that is tolerated in almost no other modern democracy. As we have seen in Ohio and Florida in the past two presidential elections, close elections and voting problems can cast a harsh light on the actions of such election officials, who often campaign for candidates running in the very elections they supervise. Even people in such a position who try to perform their duties in an unbiased way fall victim to the appearance of a conflict of interest. The Carter-Baker Commission therefore recommended a set of reforms aimed at making election administration non-partisan, professional, and impartial.
To correct this chronic problem, CDEM, working with Common Cause and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, has developed model legislation to:
- Create a statewide Independent Election Commission, directed by a nonpartisan chief.
- The nonpartisan chief elections officer would be nominated by the governor and confirmed by a super-majority of the state legislature and have the independence and stature needed to manage elections free from the reality or appearance of partisan favor.
- Public input would be required by law and come from regular public hearings; a permanent advisory board; guaranteed access to polling places for bona fide observers; and equal funding for uniform elections across the state.
CDEM is currently working with sponsors wanting to introduce such a bill in their state legislature and press for this important reform.