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Experts Anticipate Election Day Glitches

By Adrienne Frank

Have recent reforms restored voter confidence in the American election process? A panel of experts tackled that question and more Oct. 9, during a conference sponsored by AU’s Center for Democracy and Election Management (CDEM).

The event looked to Election Day and beyond, identifying problems voters might encounter on Nov. 4, and building a postelection reform agenda to move U.S. elections into the future.

This is a year that’s either going to be a year of opportunity or a year of chaos,” said Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, who expressed concerns about identification issues and deceptive practices. “This is the most important election in my lifetime and probably yours, too. Let’s get it straight in 2008.”

Edgar also praised states that allow voters to register on election day and advocated the use of standardized voting machines with a paper trail.

“If we can find billions of dollars for a bailout, we can find $1 billion to do this,” he said.

Nancy Tate, executive director of the League of Women Voters, worried about the lack of well-trained poll workers.

“There aren’t enough poll workers who know how to use the machines. That, plus high turnout, means long lines . . . People do get turned away because the people on the ground are not equipped to handle them,” explained Tate, who urged people to avoid lines by voting during off-hours.

The conference also featured an updated report on the 87 recommendations issued by the 2005 Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform. According to Robert Pastor, co-director of CDEM, some of the recommendations, which focused on ballot integrity, voter technology, media access and projections, election observation, and more, “found their legs and moved in a positive direction, but most of them have not.”

“The states, with some leadership, have worked many of these different issues. There are people in Congress that have pressed for some reforms, as well,” said Pastor. “But, by and large, our country’s system remains quite archaic for a country that purports to be the strongest democracy in the world.”