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  "Because inaccurate, out-of-date voter records are one of the primary causes of problems, all the way through Election Day -- polling place problems, lines, provisional ballots and other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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid