What are the lessons of Election 2000? The official report

The National Commission on Federal Election Reform has issued its report. According to CNN, the commission (co-chaired by ex-presidents Ford and Carter) has recommended a baker’s dozen of reforms to prevent another Florida debacle. They are:

  1. All states should adopt statewide voter registration system
  2. Provisional voting by anyone claiming to be registered voter; vote counted only after voter determined to be qualified
  3. Make election day a national holiday
  4. Simplify absentee balloting for uniformed and overseas voters
  5. Restore voting rights to felons after completion of sentence, probation and parole
  6. Federal and state authorities take steps through funding and education to ensure voting rights
  7. Have each state set benchmark for voting system performance
  8. Federal standards for voting system equipment
  9. Uniform, statewide standards for determining what constitutes a vote on all equipment
  10. No projections of presidential election results by news media as long as polls remain open in 48 contiguous states.
  11. $300-$400 million state and federal funding of election administration
  12. Create new agency, Election Administration Commission, to carry out federal responsibilities in report
  13. Legislation including federal assistance and setting policy objections for states while leaving strategy choices to states

I’m actually quite disappointed that the commission basically decided to leave things up to individual state and local governments. Pardon me, but isn’t that precisely why why the election in Florida was so messed up in the first place? Frankly, I think most of these ideas are either stupid (#4: holiday; #5: re-enfranchising felons), ineffective (#12: pointless new bureaucracy), or downright unconstitutional (#10: throw reporters in jail)*.

So what do you think of the commission’s ideas, and since they’re crap, what should we really do to prevent a repeat of the 2000 election?

*In case you missed it, here’s Jimmy “Human Rights” Carter: "“This would be hopefully a voluntary commitment by the (media). If they don’t do it, then we recommend that Congress take action.”

#'s 3, 4, 8, and 9 make sense and should be adopted. #10 is a blatant First Amendment violation and the rest are asinine.

Of course, part of the debacle is that we had a partisan Supreme Court appoint the President. I have no idea how to fix that.

And let me clarify why the holiday is a stupid idea. First, many (most?) states already have unrestricted absentee voting*, so it’s not like work is preventing too many people from voting anyway. Second, if I get a vacation day, I’m getting my butt out of town for a vacation. That makes it rather difficult to get to the polling station.
*Don’t think unrestricted absentee voting distorts election results? So how about the hundreds of thousands of Floridians (including my father) who voted for Bush absentee. Wanna bet a thousand or so would have stayed home or voted for Gore if they’d known Bush was concealing a drunk driving conviction? It works the other way around, too. What if Gore had publicly stated the day before the election that he wanted to tax SUV owners? Think there are a few people who’d have wanted to retract their votes?

This seems to be asking everyone to take a major leap. I’ll have to read the whole thing, but it seems as if the Commission is asking for a federalization of elections.

I’m not sure if I like the idea of the feds being able to regulate exactly how elections are run. Just imagine what would happen when every Johnny Third Year realizes he can slap an APA suit on his local election board.

The damned Supreme Court has decided enough elections. I wouldn’t dare give 'em a second chance.

#10 is unconstitutional.

5 raises some questions because it basically says that whether or not a felon should have the right to vote depends on how long the sentence was. Thus, two people convicted of the same crime might not regain their voting rights at the same time, which seems unfair to me.

I’m personally in favor of pitching the punch card machines and implementing identical touch-screen systems everywhere. Then we would only need one simple federal standard to determine what constitutes a valid vote.

As for #3, I don’t think that many people would go for a new national holiday just because this commission said so.

They want to leave it to state gov’t. Not local.

They have to because the courtroom battles of the last election made it pretty clear that the supreme court will hold election methods are to be determined by the state.

No. it was messed up because the election wasn’t uniform within the state.

The holiday isn’t a bad idea, esp. if you’re thinking about the populous precincts where there is too much crowding from 6:00 to 8:00 to allow everyone to vote or vote conveniently. (Your faith in the absentee ballot as a remedy is just bizarre given the last election.)

Felons should vote. We have 2 million people in the system currently and i don’t know how many more are past felons. That’s vast. And they’re vastly overrepresented by minorities. You’re effectively disenfranchising a large percentage of the minority vote this way. It’s shades of Jim Crow.

From a very abstract theoretical perspective though, you ought never permanently disenfranchise felons. It makes it just too easy to disenfranchise targeted sectors by criminalizing them. ie. you could easily disenfranchise war protesters, the civilly disobedient, and in the past homosexuals, etc.

Another reason we’ll never see drug legalization. That constituency can’t vote.

Not all gov’t agencies are sprawling impotent bureaucracies. They are usually very effective when created to restore faith in an institution that has lost legitimacy (e.g. the FDA was created to give legitimacy back to the pharmaceutical industry - and at their request - which was widely regarded as a bunch of snake oil salesman at the time). Might be a good place to turn to avoid court battles in the future. Maybe not.

i’m not sure it’s unconstitutional. we’re talking about a three hour delay in reporting in the interest of democracy. and anyway it’s not necessarily something you’d legislate. i’d imagine if the networks (and that’s all we really care about) were formally requested to withhold forecasts for three hours they’d do it.

A question for Minty(I know he’s a lawyer)! Aren’t time, manner and place restrictions on expression constitutional? Would making them wait till the polls closed be an unreasonable restriction? The government would be stopping their speech, but delaying it till it might actually be true, right?

IMO, until the polls close, they’re not broadcasting news, but broadcasting guesses disguised as news. (it’s a pity we have sheep who won’t go the poll and cast their vote if they think their canidate has ‘already lost’)

where it says ‘would be’, I meant ’ would not be’.

Question: The networks today won’t project exit poll results for a state until that state’s polls close. (They blew it in Florida, by overlooking the Panhandle area, which closed one hour later, thereby losing W an estimatred 10,000 votes, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, is the decision to delay the broadcast of these exit poll results a law or a voluntary agreement? Has anyone ever attacked this treatment on 1st amendment grounds?

Actually, I think the whole idea of making federal control for elections might be unconstitutional. One of the surprising things to emerge from the last election was the fact that there is not even a right to even have elections for president at all. By Constitution, the states chose the president in any manner that they want.

Does unconstitutional = wrong? Should there not be a constitutional right to have elections for presidents?

So often in these debates I see a reply to a right/wrong issue as “it is/is not constitutional!” Is that even relevant?


*Originally posted by kabbes *
Does unconstitutional = wrong? Should there not be a constitutional right to have elections for presidents?

This commission is making practical recommendations that they would like to see adopted as a practical matter. If their recommendations are unconstitutional, they are a waste of time, as the Constitution is extremely unlikely to be altered for matters that do not have an overwhelming amount of intense support.

Depends what the issue is - see above.

Fair enough, I suppose. Carry on.

Izzy: True, the states need not hold an election for president at all. However, they certainly do have to hold elections for their representatives and senators, so there certainly is a significant federal interest in all those elections. If the president just so happens to be on the same ballot, I guess we’ll just have to live with decent poll equipment and unbiform standards for presidential elections too. :slight_smile:

As for the source of Congressional power in regulating federal elections, I’d look to several places, any one of which could get the job done. [ul][li]Article I, section 5: “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns, and Qualifications of its own Members . . . .” That sounds to me like Congress can set standards for elections involving the House and Senate. Again, if president happens to be on the ballot too, all the better.[/li][li]Everyone’s favorite, the interstate commerce clause. I know I didn’t get a ton of work done when I was watching recounts and Republican riots and judicial proceedings. And dammit, the whole economy almost collapsed as a result of my distraction! ;)[/li][li]The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment.[/li][li]The 15th Amendment (since the disenfranchised were disproportionately racial minorities).[/ul][/li]Some of those authorities are weaker than others, but you only need one for federal standards to work.

december: The decision not to broadcast exit polls until after the polls in a state are closed is (so far) voluntary, so no 1st Amendment problems. In fact, ISTR Matt Drudge releasing poll results all election day long on his web site, as is his constitutional right.

Also, I see your imaginary 10,000 Panhandle votes and raise you 20,000 imaginary Palm Beach votes.

spooje: Reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions are only constitutional when the restrictions are content-neutral. Because Carter’s proposal is not content-neutral (i.e., it applies only to election coverage), the restriction would be subjected to the highest level of judicial scrutiny, under which the law doesn’t have a prayer of being held constitutional.

uglybeech: I think this quote from the CNN story in the OP handily dispatches your claim that the commission would leave everything up to the states, not local governments:

And for the record, if it wasn’t clear enough already, I absolutely detest unrestricted abesentee voting. But if the problem you’re trying to fix is low voter turnout because people are at work, this absentee balloting already addresses precisely that problem. In fact it enables people to vote at any time in the weeks before election day, which is much more generous than only expanding the opportunity to vote on election day.

As for #12, the pointless new bureaucracy . . . we already have the Federal Election Commission! Why on earth do we need a whole new department of the federal government to do what existing departments can already accomplish?

Snort, snort, snort. Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.


Oh yeah, here comes another national holiday that only the banks and Federal Government workers will actually take off. What do they think–everything is going to shut down like Thanksgiving and Christmas? Maybe Labor day? I think not. It would probably be a lot like Columbus day or MLK day—work as usual.

!@#$% the holiday idea.


I actually like this one. Vote on Tuesday, let the percents count the votes, then announce the winners in a day or two, maybe a week or two if necessary. The media has turned the elections into circus big tent event. Does anybody really need to know RIGHT AWAY, before voters have finished voting, who the media muckamucks are predicting will win? I think not.

Now should it be law? Probably not. I’d prefer blackballing offenders. “Sorry, Tom, but since your networked made productions, the President has decided not to let your network have any interviews for the next four year. You’ll have to sit in the back row with the Junior reporters. Hope your ratings and popularity don’t plummet too bad. Bawhahaha!” Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t sound unconstitutional, and would probably be more affective than tossing mush-mouth in the poky .


!@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% @#%
!@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% @#%
!@#% !@#% big government !@#% !@#%
!@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% @#%
!@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% !@#% @#%

The problems of the Florida elections were state and local problems and need to be remedied at that level. The federal Government needs to keep it paws out of other peoples backyards.

From what I’ve read, they’re not talking about creating a new holiday, but moving Veteran’s Day to Election Day.

Carry on.

IMHO the problem with these recommendations is not with their specifics but rather that they miss the point altogether.

The problem with the election in Florida was not with bad ballots or inconsistent counting techniques (although it was exacerbated by said). The problem was that the results showed a statistical dead heat. No matter what kind of system you use (from pencil and paper to touch-screen electronics) you will have a margin of error. If the difference between the number of votes for each candidate falls within that margin you’re screwed.

I have no recommendations of my own except to point out that if more states split their electors to match the popular vote the margin of error wouldn’t matter so much.

Allowing Felons to vote is a Bad Idea. Of course people will attempt to turn it into a “race” issue and so on, which is laughable, if not transparent. Frankly, I don’t want rapists and murderers and the like being able to cast votes for the local rat catcher, much less leader of the free world. Just another slap in the face for regular folk of any stripe.

Currently, the election is held on the first tuesday after the first monday in November, ever four years, (excepting the State of Florida, which continues to vote until they get the outcome they want) Blaming the Supreme Court is juvenile. Hell, the Democrats can’t even steal an election correctly anymore! (Try to be more discreet in 2004)

I think changing Election day would require an amendment to the constitution. I’m much more in favor of making it April 15th than Veterans Day.

Originally posted by december *
(They blew it in Florida, by overlooking the Panhandle area, which closed one hour later, thereby losing W an estimatred 10,000 votes, but that’s another story.)

Yes, a fictional one. It was 11 minutes, and the total number of people found to have admitted not voting because of that is exactly one (1). The subject has been discussed in depth on this very board.

Voluntary agreement. Pay more attention in the future.

Not quite. The choice of electoral slates is indeed delegated by the US Constitution to the states (not to the state legislatures specifically, as is sometimes asserted, notedly by the GOP leadership of the Florida legislature). However, each state constitution in turn passes on the right to make that choice to the people via elections. There is no way to override that in any state without amending its own constitution - but the amendment processes for state constitutions all require ratification by, yes, the people. It follows that interpreting the rules for choosing presidential electoral slates is a function of the state courts, not federal ones, which is why the Conservative 5 had to find a rationalization other than Article II for doing it anyway.

mintygreen, could you please expound on your reasoning that the US Constitutional procedures for choosing members of the Legislative branch apply by inference to the President too? I don’t get it, sorry.
As for the OP, I suspect Bush and the Bush-election-apologizing right-wing media will use the proposed holiday to hoot down the entire package. After all, allowing for the reasonability any changes would only bring up the spectre of his legitimacy, a situation they can least afford to bring out.

Other than that, the rest seems obvious, especially if there is no political will to reconsider the Electoral College itself (speaking of topics which have been discussed thoroughly on this very board).

Could you possibly explain what bearing this has on anything I’ve said? My point was that the state elections would not be subject to federal control, which you seem to be agreeing with.