Voting Registration Tops Election Law Issues, Says Panel
The most pressing issues facing election law practitioners and reformers has switched from the delivery of voting procedures to the issues surrounding voter registration, according to a panel of national voting and election law experts gathered Friday at the American Bar Association’ Annual Meeting in Chicago.
In a session sponsored by the Standing Committee on Election Law, Lance Gough, executive director of the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago, and Jan Kralovec, director of elections for Cook County offered local insights.
“The focus has really switched from the issues surrounding touch screen voting, to really looking at the issues surrounding voting registration, especially third party voting registration,” said Gough.
Panelist Raquel Rodriguez, of McDermott Will and Emery LLP, Miami, shared her perspective from the tumultuous election landscape of Dade County, Florida. Rodriguez noted that third-party groups such as ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people, was a group who’s registration tactics were often questioned.
Gough, Kralovec, and Rodriguez agreed that a uniformed voting registration process would be very beneficial in reducing the number of Election Day challenges and problems with access to the polls. Kralovec noted that Canada has a “universal registration” system in which government databases are the actual voting rolls, thus everyone who wants to vote is already eligible.
Another election law concern is overseas military voting. “I’ve had a solider tell me that he gets his orders through email and is confused why he can’t vote online,” said Gough. Rodrgiuez noted that Florida is involved in a pilot program with Internet Voting kiosks in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Currently, each state has varying statues regarding overseas military voting. From faxing to mailing ballots, many states are stuck in the past with rules that risk disenfranchising the military voter, panelists noted.
John C. Keeney Jr. of the law firm of Hogan and Hartson’s Washington, D.C., office and chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law, moderated the panel.