Presidential Commission’s Task: Focus on the Little Things

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[Image courtesy of sonofthesouth]

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration convened for the first time last Friday in preparation for its first public hearing this week in Miami.

Much of the coverage of the Commission has focused on the unlikelihood that its deliberations will yield any kind of federal legislative activity, leading some to wonder what the body will be able to accomplish.

But in many ways, that lack of legislative urgency should be an asset to the Commission, especially since the topics the group has been tasked with covering lie outside the “hot button” issues that have consumed the debate over the last several years.

What the Commission is seeking to do is focus attention on those smaller, less controversial (but far more important) areas that usually have a real impact on Election Day. As I’ve said to people privately, the Commission’s task is akin to convincing the field to eat its vegetables by focusing on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of elections like capacity and polling place management that don’t usually get the headlines.

Fortunately, the body is well-suited for the task; with five current and former election officials on the roster – not to mention three private-sector leaders whose expertise meshes with the collective interest in operational improvements – there is reason for optimism that the Commission will have something interesting and important to say about key, if “unsexy”, aspects of election administration.

It isn’t realistic to expect anything big out of the Commission (at least not in the sense that we usually expect with a high-profile effort like this) but it’s worth remembering that big doesn’t always equal important. If this body is able to carry out its mission of looking at the little things of election administration – and identify ways that election officials across the nation can use those to the benefit of voters – then it will have accomplished something very significant indeed.

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