Highlights of the Legislation:
-- Create an separate agency called the Commission on Election Reform
-- The Commission would study all aspects of election administration and make recommendations to the states and localities for their implementation of methods and technology to improve how elections are conducted
-- The Commission would provide matching grants for implementation to those states and localities willing to adopt their recommendations.
-- Preserve the rights of the states and localities to make their own decisions about what works best for them.
Letter to VIP Members from President Deborah Phillips:
Dec 5, 2000
The Voting Integrity Project has rarely endorsed legislation, preferring to endorse approaches instead. However, today it was my privilege to speak at a press conference called in the Senate Rules Committee Room where I announced VIP's support for the McConnell-Torricelli bill known as The Election Reform Act of 2000.
It was essential to VIP that the bill have the bi-partisan sponsorship of both Senator McConnell, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee (Republican) and Senator Torricelli, a member of that Committee (Democrat). The bill will create the Election Administration Commission consisting of the current FEC Office of Election Administration and the DOD Office of Voter Assistance.
It's sole function will be to study and make recommendations on election administration, and it will supply matching grants to states and localities willing to adopt its recommended reforms.
It will also focus on ensuring access to polling places for physically challenged and address other issues for that community such as the problem of guaranteeing ballot secrecy for visually impaired voters.
Remarks of Deborah M. Phillips, Chairman, The Voting Integrity Project
On the Introduction of The Election Reform Act of 2000
December 5, 2000
I am very pleased to be here today on behalf of The Voting Integrity Project to speak in support of The Election Reform Act of 2000.
VIP is a national non-partisan and non-ideological voter rights organization with a singular mission -- to "Defend Your Freedom by Protecting Your Vote." Voting rights encompasses a wide range of issues: from ensuring full participation of all qualified individuals and protecting the franchise of vulnerable voter groups, to the actual mechanics of elections. Free and fair elections require a citizenry that not only votes, but is active and engaged in all aspects of the process. We know from our experience that the impact of such participation can reverberate and benefit the entire community in many ways.
VIP recognizes that when it comes to elections, everyone with a stake in the outcome must have a seat at the table. We are proud that VIP's leadership and membership spans the full political spectrum. That is why we are pleased that The Election Reform Act of 2000 enjoys the bi- partisan sponsorship of Chairman McConnell and Senator Torricelli. We are grateful for their leadership on this issue.
Although it is impossible to have perfect elections, confidence in election outcomes is essential. America has just received a shocking "wake up" call on the vulnerability of elections to arbitrariness, irregularities, equipment malfunctions, voter disenfranchisement and even fraud. Since its founding in 1996 VIP has studied and reported on such instances nationwide. It is only now, with the intense scrutiny surrounding Election 2000, that the American public seems ready to support needed change in election policy.
Following the events of the past several weeks, there almost certainly will be a rush to produce policy proposals that are designed to address one aspect of perceived need, or worse, impose a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution. It is possible that such approaches could produce no effective change and result in a new set of problems.
In its years of mapping the fault lines in America's election system, VIP has concluded that it is wise to defer to state and local jurisdictions in determining how their elections are to be conducted. Each city and county is in the best position to pick a voting system and rules that will serve its community.
However, it is also apparent that limited resources often drive such decisions, and that election divisions go begging when state budgets are under consideration. Only when faced with a crisis, do legislatures typically recognize the need for additional election resources.
Even when a crisis loosens the purse strings of the state, there is no guarantee that it will result in the best approaches being recommended or adopted. This is because America does not have a sufficient record of study on what works well or what is problematic when selecting an election system or devising protocols for administration.
That is why the approach offered here today by Chairman McConnell and Senator Torricelli is so desirable. Instead of seeking a one-time study, or proposing a partial or particular solution, theirs is a practical, long-term approach: to create and dedicate one agency to the study and support of American's election administration.
With creation of the Election Administration Commission we can expect that America's election officials will have an authoritative resource upon which to rely in making critical judgments. Equipped with targeted "matching funds" flowing to states and localities seeking to implement the Commission's recommendations, this approach offers the best chance of producing effective positive change.
In this way, America can begin the daunting task of improving the integrity of its elections so that every qualified American can trust the voting franchise will be made available to them, and that their vote will be cast and counted, unimpeded or undiluted, in an environment of impeccable transparency and fairness.
Thus, it is my privilege here today to announce that The Voting Integrity Project strongly endorses The Election Reform Act of 2000 and urges other members of Congress and the American people to support it and hasten its passage. Thank you.
© The Voting Integrity Project, November 5, 2000. Permission is hereby given to reprint these remarks with appropriate credit given.
Copyright © 1998 Voting Integrity Project. All rights reserved.
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