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  "Because inaccurate, out-of-date voter records are one of the primary causes of problems, all the way through Election Day -- polling place problems, lines, provisional ballots and other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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid