Commission recommends voting safeguards

Carter-Baker Commission Report

The 21-member Commission on Federal Election Reform, led by former president Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, has concluded that electronic voting machines should generate voter-verifiable trails and all voters should be required to present photo identification.

Although the report, with nine pages of recommendations, was released Monday, the identification recommendations are already generating controversy. Rep. John Conyers, (D-Mich.), echoing the sentiments of other voting rights activists, said the requirement will disenfranchise voters who don't have driver's licenses.

"The simple fact is that many minority and poor voters do not have the time, money or need to purchase a driver's license," Conyers wrote in a statement posted to his Web site. "In fact, over 10 percent of eligible voters in the last election did not have a photo ID. They vote by presenting other means of identification (a voter registration card, utility bill, or affidavit). This Commission is now asking Congress to deny the franchise to those voters unless they obtain a national ID card."

The specific recommendation in the commission report is that states should require voters to use the Real ID card, mandated in a May 2005 law, and that states should provide an identification card to residents who don’t drive.

The commission also recommended that voters without such identification should be allowed to vote on provisional ballots through Jan. 1, 2010.

Spencer Overton, a member of the commission and an associate professor of law at the George Washington University law school, also objected to the identification recommendations.

"The Commission's 'Real ID' recommendation is more restrictive than the photo ID proposal rejected by the Carter-Ford Commission in 2001, and more extreme than any ID requirement adopted in any state to date," he wrote in a dissent posted to a Web site set up for dissenting commissioners. "The Commission's proposal is so excessive that it would prevent eligible voters from proving their identity with even a valid U.S. passport or a U.S. military photo ID card."

The provision, if adopted, would exclude more qualified voters than fraudulent ones, Overton added.

The report, released today, includes dozens of specific recommendations. Here are some of them.

* Voter databases should be made interoperable between states so that information on voters who have moved to another state can be easily shared to prevent duplicate registrations.

* States should use procedures such as electronic matching of death records, local tax rolls and felon records to help maintain accurate lists of registered voters.

* Congress should pass a law requiring that all voting machines have a voter-verified paper audit trail and be fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

* States should adopt unambiguous procedures to reconcile discrepancies between paper and electronic tallies.

* Independent testing authorities, under supervision by the Election Assistance Commission, should have responsibility for certifying the security of source code used in e-voting machines. Copies of source code should be placed in escrow for future review by qualified experts, and manufacturers unwilling to submit their code should be barred from selling their machines.


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