Election Reform Hearing in Houston

Former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker are in Houston to hear testimony about the need for election reform. The day-long hearing focused on simplifying and securing the voting process.

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The Carter-Baker Commission on Election Reform was put together to study the electoral process in the wake of the 2000 Presidential election. Former Secretary of State and Commission co-chair James Baker says experts have testified on a variety of problems in the election system and their mission is to find solutions to as many of them as possible.

The panel heard many recommendations. One of the prevailing themes was the idea of eradicating local polling precincts and setting up election day voting centers. Rice University Dean of Social Sciences Bob Stein testified that polling centers would help increase voter turn-out and reduce costs.

But critics of centralized voting say it would be too easy for voters to scam the system by voting in one central location and then immediately crossing town and voting in another. While experts were inside testifying about a dozen protesters gathered outside. The group was protesting what they called a whitewashed election hearing. Among them was David Cobb, the Green Party's 2004 presidential candidate. He says the 2000 presidential election and the questions raised in Ohio in 2004 left many people feeling betrayed by the nation's electoral process.

Rice University Associate Professor Dan Wallach also testified about security and voter fraud. He says as a computer security expert he has serious concerns about the safety of electronic voting.

Wallach says even if you're not worried about hacking or security, software has bugs and every electronic voting system will experience problems over time. Harris County Clerk Beverly Kauffman says there is need for election improvement, but she says the problems shouldn't be pinned on voting machines, but rather a fundamental issue of instilling integrity in the voter identification process.

The commission is compiling testimony received from across the country and will release a report on their findings on September 19th.

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