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(originally published by Booz & Company)


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

DR. ORNSTEIN:  Just a couple of points.  One related to that.  We may end up with a standard that basically is you have to have a kind of voting system that gives a voter a second chance at the polls, where you kick a ballot out if it is not filled out correctly.  That doesn’t mean just the touch screen technology or the very expensive stuff.  What we’ve found is that the most accurate in the past was the kind of optical scan – there are different kinds of optical scans.  But the optical scan that got a second going over and gave a voter a chance if that kind of mistake was made.  It’s not terribly expensive to do but you can eliminate an enormous amount of headaches that way.

And just one other point.  We’re going to find the events of September 11 and election reform coming together in odd ways.  I know in our own deliberations in the Constitution Project, when we brought up the issue of an identification card, it caused a firestorm.  All of a sudden the notion of a national ID card has taken on a completely different coloration.

And if you have a national ID card, you know, some of the same problems.  And it was on both sides.  My own judgment was that for minority voters, many of whom are intimidated away from the polls by poll workers saying you don't have adequate ID, but who felt that this would be used in the other way, that you could actually provide protections if you can get past some of the concerns, and make sure that there are adequate civil liberties sensitivities here.

But if we had identification cards, and those that use a very sophisticated technology, for other purposes, it will change some of the dynamic of election reform and what we think about in terms of fraud or what we think about in terms of making sure that the people who get to the polls are actually given the opportunity to vote.

MR. GERENCSER:  That’s great.
Yes, Ed.

MR. RODRIGUEZ:  You know, the concept of a national ID card to many Americans seems like a foreign thing.  It’s right out of science fiction.  But the reality is there are many other nations in this world that are right now moving towards having a national ID card.  The difference between them and us is really a cultural thing based on a long-term belief in terms of us treasuring our privacy, our concern about whether or not the government is an intrusive entity.

So as we see cultural concepts and predispositions change because of 9/11 and where we need to trade off privacy versus our own personal security, I think you will see some growing folks supporting that concept.

MR. GERENCSER:  Any other points?

SECRETARY PRIEST:  I think you’re optimistic in terms of a national ID card.  I just don’t believe that, cultural or otherwise, Americans are ready to give up all the privacy issues that they have now because of the attack on September 11.  I’m sorry, I just don’t see it happening.

Now, I do see a card, a Smartcard type of thing for people to vote.  That could be like your driver’s license.  But I don't see a national ID card.  I think that’s optimistic.

MR. RODRIGUEZ:  Today I understand that.  In the future, who knows what will be coming out?

MR. GERENCSER:  Any other views on national ID card?

SECRETARY THORNBURGH:  I would agree with Sharon.  If I were to go home to Kansas and propose a national ID card, I think I could just start packing my bags and move elsewhere.

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