GOP Response to PCEA: Green Light on Voter Registration Reforms, Red Light on Early Voting


[Image via screenshot courtesy of RNLA]

Earlier this month, the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) issued a response to the final report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

RNLA’s report isn’t a surprise; the group has been very active in formulating and promoting many of the proposed and enacted election law changes at the state and local level. What is a little surprising is that the report is generally supportive of the PCEA’s rather expansive set of recommendations regarding voter registration – including online voter registration (OVR) – but digs in against further expansion of early voting.

Here’s the bulk of the press release announcing the report:

As the leading Republican group on matters of election law and administration, the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) issued a response to offer
its perspective on the recent report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) outlining recommendations to improve election administration in the U.S.

RNLA President Craig Burkhardt: “PCEA suggests many good reforms for the election
administration process. For example its recommendations in areas such as voter registration and list maintenance would go a long way to reduce fraud and long lines in our election process. I’m glad the President’s former lawyer co-chaired the effort and helped author the PECA report – which document recognizes by inclusion that tasks such as list maintenance are not forms of voter suppression.”

RNLA Co-Chair Heather Heidelbaugh: “It is unfortunate that the PCEA report chose to
recommend early voting which has not been shown to help with long lines or address other systemic voting problems. This recommendation if adopted would simply produce more burdens for local election officials and divert resources that should go to purchasing new voting equipment and other upgrades.”

Briefly, RNLA agrees with many of the Commission’s recommendations, particularly:

+ Identifying deficiencies in our voter registration system as a significant contributor to
Election Day problems, including long lines at the polls.

+ PCEA’s recommendations to improve polling place management, including leveraging
technology through the use of electronic poll books; and

+ Reforming the current voting equipment testing and certification process

RNLA strongly cautions against the Commission’s recommendation that states embrace more early voting as a solution to the systemic election administration problems identified in its report. The experience from recent elections demonstrates that early voting does not solve the problem of long lines. It is also expensive, distracts from Election Day preparations, and diminishes the importance of Election Day.

RNLA recommends state and local election officials adopt additional reforms to improve
election administration:

+ Amend their laws so there are fewer restrictions in sharing voter registration, voter
history and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) data with other states to improve
the accuracy of the voter rolls and prevent double-voting. Among other tools to help
with this process are to adopt intrastate data-sharing among other state agencies,
upgrade statewide voter registration databases,explore public-private partnerships for
list maintenance, and utilize the Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE database
to ensure only citizens are able to register and remain on the voter rolls.

+ Develop technology to display voter photographs on electronic poll books to improve
the integrity of the check-in process.

+ Manage precinct sizes by timely re-precincting, ensuring a manageable number of
voters are assigned to polling places and avoid co-locating polling places when

The RNLA report suggests that recent moves toward OVR in GOP-controlled legislatures may grow into a wider trend, which should give comfort to supporters in key states like Ohio and Florida. But it also suggests that fights about the extent of early voting will generate battles in legislatures – and, likely, in the courts – as Election Day approaches in 2014 and 2016.

Still, in a field where consensus is often in short supply, it’s encouraging to see that a key political and policy voice like the RNLA finds more than a few things to like in the PCEA report.

I may wish that there were no partisan fights about election administration, but I’ll settle for fewer than usual …

Stay tuned.

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