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(originally published by Booz & Company)


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

SECRETARY PRIEST:  And you’re right, Norm.  It is expensive, but when you start looking out into rural states, in some cases where counties don’t even have Internet service providers, some counties don’t even have phones, it becomes a real challenge to do that.  I favor that, but it’s a real challenge.

MR. GERENCSER:  Ed, you had a point?

MR. RODRIGUEZ:  Yes.  Unless we’re prepared to envision a fairly standard or fixed number of registration systems throughout the country as well as a fixed number of voting components, like the tabulation system and all that, basically a very strong factor in being able to facilitate the vision that we’re hearing here is going to be the effective development of standards that are going to allow registration system, A, work with the individual counties, unless we’re going to propose that each county gives up their individual registration and their voting systems right now.

So there’s a great amount of work ahead of us if we’re going to institute that kind of vision and do it in a cost effective manner in which an investment in one state’s going to be able to be leveraged elsewhere where different equipment is deployed.

SECRETARY THORNBURGH:  If I can touch on that very briefly, I believe what you heard us nearly chanting over the last year was no federal mandates.  And again I go back to the distinction between mandates and standards, in that we understand that if there’s going to be federal funding there are going to be some types of strings attached.  Mandates again are those areas in which they not only establish what is to be done, but the exact mechanism and the way in which it’s going to be accomplished, whereas standards are the minimum outputs that will be allowed in order to accept federal funding, and that we agree that we can, as long as the states have the flexibility to implement, to reach those standards, then we can live with that.  But the mandates of determining how we will accomplish it are unacceptable.

SECRETARY THORNBURGH:  Personally, I would not even be willing to accept funded mandates. I think, again, the mandates are the wrong approach on this.  Unfunded mandates are especially repulsive.

I think we have to be very careful when we distinguish between mandates and standards.  We agree that there have to be outcomes that insure that every voter has the opportunity to have their vote counted as they intended to have it cast.  And we understand that there are provisions, like provisional voting, that are going to be important to allow that to happen.  And we’re willing to work with those standards, but not willing to have the federal government tell us how to do what we do very well.

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