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Published: December 13, 2001

 
 

Panel Discussion: “Election Reform: A Systematic Business Solution”

November 13, 2001 - National Press Club, Washington, DC

Moderator

  • Mark Gerencser, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and co-author of strategy+business' "Toward Digital Democracy: A Strategist's Plan for Fixing Flawed Elections"

Panelists

  • David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States
  • Ron Thornburgh (R), Secretary of State from Kansas and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS)
  • Sharon Priest (D), Secretary of State from Arkansas and President Emeritus, NASS
  • Dr. Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
  • John D. Mayer, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Ed Rodriguez Senior Associate of Booz Allen Hamilton, co-author of "Toward Digital Democracy: A Strategist’s Plan for Fixing Flawed Elections"

MARK GERENSCER, Moderator, Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton: I will now ask each panelist to present a two minute overview on their perspective, and then we will engage in a discussion and dialog. I expect the dialog will either converge or conflict, and we'll see where that goes.
David Walker, would you mind beginning please?

DAVID M. WALKER, Comptroller General of the United States: Voting access and reliability is obviously essential in order to have a healthy democracy.  We all know what happened in the controversy associated with the Presidential election in Florida last year.  I personally could deal with it directly because I’ve lived in Florida for a number of years.  I lived in Dade County, Broward County, Duvall County.  I voted butterfly ballots, punch card ballots and I knew the demographics of all the counties that were in controversy.  So I could deal with it directly.

We were actually asked to do some work, GAO, during that controversy, but declined.  But we’ve done a tremendous amount of work after the election was over with and resolved, and most of that has already been published.

I think what’s important to note is a lot of people have been on the playing field doing work in this area.  But our work is directly for the Congress of the United States.  It’s bipartisan and bicameral in nature, and our work is based upon a statistically valid sample, for the most part.

A lot of people have done work, but we pulled a statistically valid sample of 100 counties throughout the United States in order to try to be able to draw broad conclusions based upon our work, rather than anecdotal evidential matter.

In that regard we found, among other things, that there was a wide diversity that’s not unexpected.  The elections are primarily the responsibility of the counties and the states.  And as a result it’s very decentralized and it’s very diverse in how it’s being handled.

We found that the problems were not just technology, which some people would lead you to believe.  It was a combination of people, process and technology challenges, and that, to be effective, you must address all three.

Importantly, the federal government does have a role to play, because under the Constitution of the United States, the federal government has a direct right to promulgate standards as it relates to Congressional elections, and from a practical standpoint that has a ripple effect throughout.

In summary, we found that one size does not fit all, and that in looking at reform in this area, there are four criteria to keep in mind.  What’s the appropriate role of the federal government; the need to balance accessibility with the integrity of the result; the need to integrate and coordinate people, process and technology considerations; and the need to make sure that whatever reforms are enacted are both affordable and sustainable.  Thank you.

MR. GERENCSER:  Thank you, David. Norman, could we get your perspective, please.

 
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