Presidential Commission on Election Administration

In April of 2013, President Obama appointed by Executive Order a Presidential Commission on Election Administration (“PCEA”).  Independents can take some credit for the fact that he did.  It had been nearly 20 years, since a president used the authority of an executive order to address the issue of election reform. The 10-member body was tasked with presenting recommendations to the president about how to “improve the experience of all voters.” With independent voters comprising over 40% of electorate and facing a myriad of barriers to full participation, Independent Voting immediately sought to educate the Commissioners and impact on their findings.

In April of 2013, President Obama appointed by Executive Order a Presidential Commission on Election Administration (“PCEA”). Independents can take some credit for the fact that he did. It had been nearly 20 years, since a president used the authority of an executive order to address the issue of election reform.

The 10-member body was tasked with presenting recommendations to the president about how to “improve the experience of all voters.” With independent voters comprising over 40% of electorate and facing a myriad of barriers to full participation, Independent Voting immediately sought to educate the Commissioners and impact on their findings.

Members of the Independent Voting national network attended the Commissioners swearing in ceremony, formally solicited the Commission for an opportunity to provide expert witness (rejected) and set up a national committee to monitor the Commission and mobilize independents to testify at its five hearings held July thru December in Cora Gables, FL, Denver, CO, Philadelphia, PA, Cincinnati, OH and DC. The Commission immediately carved out a narrow mandate that fell far short of the public need for serious inquiry into the integrity of the U.S. election process and the ways independents were not fully included. In June, Independent Voting held a national conference call with 150 independents from 35 states. Jackie Salit, President of IndependentVoting.org, launched the campaign to pressure the PCEA to broaden their mandate and “recognize that the American people want a more non-partisan form of politics at every level.”

A letter to the Commission was developed and circulated, quickly drawing support from over 1,000 independents representing 50 states. It was presented at the Denver, CO hearing along with testimony from numerous independent voting groups and leaders including: Catana Barnes of Independent Voters of Nevada, Jason Olson of California’s Independent Voice and Randy Miller of Utah Independent Voters and Gwen Bardel of Committee of Independent Voters in Colorado. Independent Voting’s Dir. of Communications Sarah Lyons attending the hearing and appeared on local media including the Denver Post.

The Daily Beast published an editorial by Jackie Salit and Harry Kresky entitled, Obama Commission Omission: The Voting System Isn’t The Problem. “We all want voting to be more efficient and less time consuming. But these upgrades won’t change what our electoral system produces — a government paralyzed by partisan gridlock.”

Hearings in Philadelphia and Ohio followed. Independents attended and spoke at each. Independents sent out press releases, mobilized groups to attend and testify, networked at commission hearings and spoke to the media.

The Commission grew weary and tried to discourage independents from testifying but independents persisted and the mountain of evidence provided by them on election discrimination faced by independents grew. Maine activist Joe Pickering garnered letters from Maine elected officials including U.S. Senator Angus King and Congressman Michael Michaud. Here is Senator King’s letter.

In the weeks leading up to the PCEA issuance of its final report, independents another round of letter writing was directed to the Commission Chairs urging they include the plight of independent voters in their findings.
In the end, the PCEA issued a final report in which not a single mention of restrictions facing independent voters was mentioned.