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Proposed voting commission draws fire from both sides

President Obama’s proposed commission on electoral reform aimed at improving voting efficiency and reducing long wait times for voters is producing heated criticism from advocates on both the right and the left.

Some conservatives see the initiative as a federal overreach into an issue that is rightly the province of states, while some voting rights advocates say that the president’s proposed commission is a too timid response to what they see as a huge problem.

“Setting up a commission is not a bold step; it is business as usual,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters. Critics of the commission say it doesn’t match the severity of the problem. “The president could have done much better by pointing to real solutions, like that in legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill to require early voting, set limits on waiting times, provide for portable voter registration and set up secure online voter registration.”

Conservatives said the commission infringes on local control of the voting process.

“I do not support the president’s proposal to appoint yet another national commission to study solutions to the problem of long lines at polling places that seems to be confined to very few states,” Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, said in a statement, adding that she is opposed to national mandates.

Former Federal Elections Commission official Hans von Spakovsky, a Bush administration Justice Department official who is a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, wrote a blog post yesterday morning criticizing Obama’s move. He argued that the average wait time nationally for voters during the 2012 election was only 14 minutes and that the country already has a bipartisan election commission, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

“Obama’s commission may just be a stalking horse to implement liberals’ latest partisan fantasies of automatic and election day voter registration – so-called reforms that will stifle real improvements and endanger the integrity of our elections,” he wrote.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in an interview with that Obama was playing political games.

“When the president talks about voting, he is focused on partisan advantage for the Democratic Party,” Cruz said. “His Justice Department tragically has been the most partisan Justice Department this country has seen. They have repeatedly fought common-sense voter integrity policies like voter ID that serve, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said, to protect and ensure the integrity of our democratic system.”

Obama first pushed the issue in his election-night victory speech, and he touched on it again in his inaugural address last month. And Tuesday night during his State of the Union address, he said: “When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.”

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