Obama Introduces Bill to Rank State Election Practices and Performance
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced the Voter Advocate and Democracy Index Act to help inform voters and state officials about the election processes in their states. The bill would create a scorecard to rank states on a set of standards designed to measure the ease of exercising the right to vote.
"We are all familiar with the problems of long lines, lost ballots, and voters improperly turned away from the polls during recent elections," Obama said. "To prevent these problems, we need nonpartisan, objective information about how well election processes around the country are working."
The concept is based on a proposal that Yale Law School Professor Heather Gerken published this January in the Legal Times. In that article she points out that a "Democracy Index" - a public ranking of election performances around the country - would force states to take concrete steps to make voting easier.
"Without a single, additional federal regulation, this scorecard could provide a powerful incentive for states to improve our democracy," Obama said.
For the 2008 elections, the bill would conduct a pilot program in selected states to test the performance measurements in the Democracy Index and gauge the value of the information gathered. Lessons learned from this pilot would be applied to the national collection of data for the Index in subsequent elections.
Summary will follow press release.
Summary of the Voter Advocate and Democracy Index Act of 2007
The Democracy Index
A new Office of the Voter Advocate within the Election Assistance Commission would develop a Democracy Index requiring the states to report on basic performance metrics such as:
* The amount of time spent by voters waiting in line;
* The number of voters incorrectly directed to the wrong polling places;
* The rate of voter ballots discarded or not counted along with an explanation;
* Provisional voting rates and the percentage of provisional votes cast but not counted;
* The number and description of election day complaints; and
* The rate of voting system malfunctions and the time required on average to get the systems back online.
Creates an Office of the Voter Advocate
The Act would establish an Office of the Voter Advocate that would:
* Collect data from the states to create a Democracy Index;
* Make grants to eligible entities to institute programs to improve performance; and
* Make recommendations to the states on how to improve their performance in the administration of federal elections.
2008 Pilot Program and Subsequent National Rollout
The Act would direct the Office of the Voter Advocate to conduct a pilot program in selected states in 2008 to test the metrics and gauge the value of the information gathered. Lessons learned from the pilot would be applied to the national application of the index and a requirement on all states to report data in subsequent elections.