News / USA

Obama Calls For US Election Reforms

Obama Calls for US Election Reformsi
X
February 23, 2013 11:47 PM
While Americans are proud of their democracy, some are saying the election system is not working as it should. As VOA's Kent Klein reports from the White House, reports of long lines at the polls have led President Barack Obama to call for reforms in the way Americans vote.

Obama Calls For US Election Reforms

Kent Klein
While Americans are proud of their democracy, some are saying the election system is not working as it should.  Reports of long lines at the polls have led President Barack Obama to call for reforms in the way Americans vote.

As President Obama celebrated his re-election last November, he acknowledged that too many people waited too long to cast their ballots.

In his State of the Union address in February, the president said long waits at the polls are a betrayal of America's ideals.

He told the story of 102-year-old Desiline Victor of Miami, Florida. "When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say," he said.

Obama announced a new commission to study the electoral process, led by the top attorneys from his 2012 campaign and that of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

While the commission looks for answers, others are debating exactly what is wrong with American elections.

At Washington's Heritage Foundation, senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky says Obama exaggerated the problem. "And the myth is that everyone had to wait in long lines to vote on Election Day last November.  We know that is not true.  MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) did a study on this, and the average wait time across the country was only 14 minutes," he said.

But the world's oldest democracy can do better, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts' David Becker, who helps states improve their election procedures.  He says lines are too long, and an antiquated voter registration system is to blame.  "Because inaccurate, out-of-date voter records are one of the primary causes of problems, all the way through Election Day -- polling place problems, lines, provisional ballots and other things that can cause delays and cost extra money," he said.

Becker wants greater automation of the process, with more states allowing voters to register by Internet.

Von Spakovsky says many states are already making reforms, checking with each other to see whether a voter has moved or is registered in more than one state.

And he says the president's commission duplicates the work of an existing government board, whose seats Obama has not filled. "There is already a federal agency - it is called the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, that was started by Congress in 2002 - whose very job is to make best-practices recommendations to the states," he said.

But David Becker is hopeful that Obama's commission will make a difference. "When people at the state level, at the national level, decide that this is important, that our American democracy is a beacon to the rest of the world, and it is incumbent upon us to fix it and improve it in our own country, that is a positive thing, and I think the president's commission will be a contribution to that effort," he said.

If so, Desiline Victor and other voters will find their basic American right much easier to exercise in future elections.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid