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(originally published by Booz & Company)


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

Everything that we’ve seen suggests that in some local elections vote by mail does increase turnout.  But otherwise there is no increase in turnout.  People don’t vote just because it’s a matter of convenience.  It’s something else that’s deeper.

SECRETARY PRIEST:  I’d just like to speak to the issue of how long it takes to get results.

Where is it in the Constitution that we have a right to know two hours after the polls close who won the election?  It took us a month to find out last year who won the Presidential election.  We want to know.  As a candidate, heck, I want to know three seconds after the polls close whether or not I’ve won or lost.  Our responsibility is to insure that people have fair, honest and accurate elections, not to insure that they end up getting the result the same night as election night.

MR. WALKER:  I agree.  However, there’s a big difference between hours and weeks.  And the fact of the matter is the President used to not take office until March.  Now the President takes office in January.  And when you’re talking about things stretching out for weeks, there is a very big negative from the standpoint of trying to be able to get your administration in place and get going.

So you’re right.  Accuracy is the key.  However, there’s a big difference between hours and weeks.

MR. GERENCSER:  Jack, you were going to make a point.

MR. MAYER:  I find the discussion really interesting here, because what it does is it gets at some of the real complicated issues of talking about election reform.  And even though we do want to make it something that is very customer focused and easy, there are a lot of checks and balances that need to go in there, because fraud is a really critical issue that everyone is going to care about.  And solutions that may be great alternatives at the superficial level, the very top level, as soon as you start going deep into them you can start finding out some of the problems of them and things that you have to be able to address.

So it isn’t an easy issue when you look at it.  You can't say, well, we’ll just do this and we’ll just do that.  It does take a lot of work to be able to figure out exactly what are some of the steps that you need to be able to do to make it a better process.  You have to do it incrementally and you have to be willing to constantly review and revise that.  It can't be just one great leap.


MR. GERENCSER:  What I’d like to do now is turn it over to the audience for questions and answers.

SECRETARY THORNBURGH:  The question, if you couldn’t hear it, is what type of centralized voter registration system are we talking about at the statewide level under the federal legislation that’s proposed.

And you’re right.  There are difference standards out there today.  There are some states that simply have a depository voter registration from all the counties.  The numbers and the names are never mingled and never checked.  You can buy just basically a list of every registered voter in the state.

And I think we have to get to a minimum standard that is truly an interactive voter registration database from county to county that is centralized with the state’s chief election official.  Because only with that type of interactive system and only with that type of integrated system are you truly going to be able to address some of the issues of fraud and multiple voter registration, if a person moves from one county to the next.  Quite frankly, I don't think they’re trying to impose fraud upon the system.  We just don’t have the means to do those double checks right now.  And only with an integrated system are we going to have that opportunity.

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