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Posts by Norman J. Ornstein

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Weekend Voting, Not Election Holiday

Everyone loves holidays. A day off from work, often a three-day weekend to travel or relax – who wouldn’t appreciate that? But holidays recognized by the government are also costly. Millions of people taking another day off from work sharply reduces productivity in the country. And, like monuments on the National Mall, there are real limits to the number one can have, and each one needs to go through a thorough and careful vetting process, so that future generations can have room or times to honor other leaders or events.

At one level, as a longtime and strong proponent of making voting easier for all Americans who are eligible, I would love to make Election Day a holiday. Far too many working people are hamstrung on Tuesday; they can vote only before or after work, when the lines are especially long and when people whose livelihoods depend on getting to work on time and getting the hourly pay cannot afford to wait for an hour or more. But adding an Election Day holiday is simply too costly.

Read the rest of Norm Ornstein’s op-ed at The New York Times’ Room For Debate site.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

There’s Value in Voter ID — If It’s Done Properly

Norman J. Ornstein
Why Tuesday? Board Member Norman J. Ornstein

One of the most interesting and significant recent Supreme Court decisions concerned the Indiana voter identification law, in which the court by a 6-3 vote upheld the law despite zero evidence of in-person voting fraud in the state. In a major surprise, Justice John Paul Stevens led the opinion, saying the state’s interest in preventing such fraud justifies the Legislature’s action. Stevens did leave the door open to challenges to other states’ laws if they create too much of a burden on many voters.

Indiana’s law was better by far than the awful Georgia law that was overturned by the courts; in Indiana, the state would provide voters with the appropriate government-issue photo ID for free, while Georgia charged a significant fee, the equivalent of a poll tax. But Indiana’s requirements are plenty burdensome.

Elections need to be fair, and fraud is a real concern, especially in an era where the stakes are very high and the parties are close enough that many elections will be decided by razor-thin margins.

If a person cannot present a passport, driver’s license or other similar form of official identification, he or she must supply an official document, such as a birth certificate, to get the free ID, and getting a copy of a birth certificate is quite costly. The fact is that many elderly people and many poor people don’t drive, don’t fly and don’t have copies of their birth certificates. (more…)

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Is Talk of Election Day Disaster Nothing But Fearmongering? Hardly

Norman J. Ornstein
Why Tuesday? Board Member Norman J. Ornstein

You readers may have noticed that there is a big election coming up in November. (If you hadn’t noticed, perhaps the Tuesday primary in Pennsylvania jogged your memory.) There are many things to be concerned about, some of which I addressed last week. But there is another large, uncomfortable issue that needs to be raised, one Congress really should consider in the coming months: What happens if there is a serious disruption of the election itself?

I have raised this issue before, namely in the months leading up to the 2004 election, and got some serious pushback. Some of it was focused on the idea that by raising the prospect of a disruption, I was notifying terrorists that this was a great target — putting up a flashing neon sign to invite an attack. The assumption here — that the terrorists out there are naïve or unsophisticated enough that this would give them a new idea — is almost absurd on its face, but should have been demolished entirely with al-Qaeda’s carefully timed attack to disrupt and influence the Spanish elections. Some of the response I got was simple bluster: We will never postpone or alter our election plans, no matter what!

(more…)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Follow Nelson’s Lead on Reforming Elections System

Norman J. Ornstein
Why Tuesday? Board Member Norman J. Ornstein

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is one of the good guys in Congress — smart, thoughtful, decent and hardworking. Now, fortunately, he is turning his attention and considerable energies to election reform, a broadly defined issue.

It is fortunate for two reasons: First, there are big issues out there and enough people distrustful of the electoral process or cynical about it to create a real crisis of governance the next time we have a very close election. Second, precious few lawmakers have decided to devote their time and attention to this topic.

Despite the emotions raised by problems with voting, this is not a slam-dunk winner of an issue politically. And those lawmakers who were instrumental in passing the Help America Vote Act in 2002 have either lost interest in the issue, are exhausted from it or believe we should wait awhile before acting again.

They are wrong. We do need to be careful about rushing to major reform without considering the costs and consequences; we are paying now for the rush to employ touch-screen devices known as DREs, or direct-recording electronic machines. And every major reform has to be absorbed by hapless election administrators who have neither the resources nor the trained personnel to make big changes on a frequent basis.

(more…)

Friday, February 15th, 2008

An Unconventional Convention?

Norman J. OrnsteinOf all the wild scenarios spun out for the 2008 presidential campaign, perhaps the least likely was the one we face: a Republican contest that was effectively over the morning after Super Tuesday, and a Democratic cage match that could go on and on and on — all the way to a tumultuous and unpredictable convention in August.

I, for instance, offered an unconventional convention scenario back in July, noting that the uniquely early start (called “front loading”) of the primary process, combined with the compressed schedule, could provide a formula for an extended, pitched battle, with no candidate getting close to a majority after Super Tuesday. But I made it clear that this was more likely to happen on the Republican side, where many plausible candidates were running against one another and none seemed to be getting more than tepid support.

The Democrats, on the other hand, already had a front-running candidate, highly regarded by most Democratic partisans, and an enthusiastic electorate that wanted to pick a nominee and get on with the big battle — ending the Bush era once and for all. (more…)

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

iVote, Voogle to Save American Elections?

iPod Vote

One of the issues left hanging as Congress is off on recess is the Holt bill to require voter-verifiable paper trails on all voting machines. Despite a robust number of co-sponsors, the bill remains mired in controversy, in part because of the opposition of sizable numbers of election officials who, after having sunk a bundle of money into touch-screen machines after the passage of the Help America Vote Act, are not inclined to change (and are also worried about deadlines and technical glitches).

The drive to create a paper trail has come about because of the widespread public and expert unease with existing electronic machines. It should make Congress think more broadly about why these machines have bred such unhappiness and distrust. (more…)

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Why Tuesday? is a non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2005 to find solutions to increase voter turnout and participation in elections... More

The Answer

In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote... More

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