Presidential Commission on Election Administration

Presidential Commission on Election Administration Presents Recommendations to President Obama

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2014 – The Presidential Commission on Election Administration today presented President Obama with a series of recommendations designed to help local and state elections officials improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots. The Report is based on a six-month study conducted by the 10-Member Commission of the problems that have plagued voting in the past and the issues that will confront the American voter in the future.

The Commission concluded unanimously that the “problems that hinder the efficient administration of elections are both identifiable and solvable.” The Report offers certain key recommendations and numerous administrative best practices to improve the problem areas identified in the President’s Executive Order charging the Commission. In formulating these recommendations, the Commission heard testimony from around the country and received and evaluated the results of a survey of thousands of state and local administrators.

Included in the Report is an examination of long lines at the polls. After extensive interviews with elections officials, voters and academicians, the Commission found that “jurisdictions can solve the problem of long lines through a combination of planning …and the efficient allocation of resources.” The Commission concluded that no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote. The Report examined and is now recommending and making readily available a series of innovative on-line tools, recommendations and best practices to help elections officials prevent the recurrence of long lines in the future. These may be found at the Commission’s website at and will be permanently hosted on the site of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project.

The Report goes beyond the question of long lines and presents a comprehensive analysis on a range of structural problems within the electoral process that bears directly on the voter experience.

“Our aim was to transcend partisan divisions and view election administration as public administration that must heed the expressed interests and expectations of voters,” said Robert F. Bauer, counsel to President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, counsel to Mitt Romney’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, in a joint statement of the Commission Co-Chairs. “The focus that we and our eight colleagues on the Commission brought to the Report is recognition of the issues and trends in election administration judged from the standpoint of voter expectation and the ways those expectations can and should be met.

Recognizing that having approximately 8,000 different jurisdictions administer elections primarily with volunteers who receive little training makes uniformity challenging, the Report’s other key recommendations include:
  • An expansion of online voter registration by the states to enhance both accuracy of the voter rolls and efficiency;
  • Having all states update and exchange their voter registration lists to create the most accurate lists possible to increase registration rates, reduce costs, and protect against fraud.
  • The expansion of voting before Election Day, recognizing that the majority of states now provide either mail balloting or in-person early voting and that voters are increasingly seeking these options;
  • The increased use of schools as polling places, since they are the best-equipped facilities in most jurisdictions, with security concerns met by scheduling an in-service training day for students and teachers on Election Day;
  • Recognizing and addressing the impending crisis in voting technology as machines bought 10 years ago with post-2000 federal funds wear out and require replacement with no federal appropriations on the horizon;
  • To usher in this needed next generation of equipment, reforming the standards and certification process to allow innovation and the adoption of widely available and significantly less expensive off-the-shelf technologies and “software-only” solutions;
  • Improving the ability of military and overseas voters to access ballots and other voting materials through the states’ websites;
  • The increased use of electronic pollbooks for greater accuracy and efficiency;
  • Assuring that polling places are accessible to all voters, are located close to where voters live and are designed to function smoothly;
  • Increasing and enhancing training and recruitment of poll workers, in the recognition that volunteer poll workers are voters’ primary source of contact during the actual voting process;
  • Having jurisdictions form advisory groups to address the needs of voters with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency; and
  • Collecting election data on a uniform basis to enable enhanced analysis to improve the voter experience.
Serving on the Commission were:
  • Robert F. Bauer, Co-Chair and Member – Partner, Perkins Coie LLP
  • Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Co-Chair and Member – Partner, Patton Boggs LLP
  • Brian Britton, Member – Vice President, Global Park Operations and Planning at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
  • Joe Echevarria, Member – Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte LLP
  • Trey Grayson, Member – Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Larry Lomax, Member – Clark County (Nevada) Registrar
  • Michele Coleman Mayes, Member – Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary for the New York Public Library
  • Ann McGeehan, Member – Assistant General Counsel of the Texas County and District Retirement System
  • Tammy Patrick, Member – Federal Compliance Officer for the Maricopa County (Arizona) Elections Department
  • Christopher Thomas, Member – Director of Elections in the Michigan Department of State
  • Professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University served as the Commission’s Research Director.
The non-partisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration was established by Executive Order on March 28, 2013.  Its mission is to identify best practices in election administration and to make recommendations to improve the voting experience.

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For further information, contact:

Greg Romano
Jackeline Stewart

The White House

President Barack Obama
Remarks Before Meeting with the Presidential Commission on Election Administration
Roosevelt Room
January 22, 2014

10:53 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Glad you guys made it to work.

I just want to say thank you publicly to all the wonderful people here who served on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.  I think all of us recall that in the last election in 2012, we had reports around the country of tremendously long lines for people when they tried to vote, and in some cases for hours they were stuck.  The day of the election I said that we're going to need to do something about it.

I think all of us share the belief that, regardless of party affiliation, that our democracy demands that our citizens can participate in a smooth and effective way.  And I called on Congress to work with us, but I also thought that it was important for us to have a bipartisan, independent panel that could actually dig into the facts and try to determine what can we do to improve this situation.

And unlike a lot of countries, we've got a pretty complex system.  We vote a lot.  We have local jurisdictions that run these elections and it makes things a little bit more complicated.  But I was confident that if we put some good minds to work, they could come up with some recommendations.  As a consequence, we set up this commission.

I asked my top attorney during my election campaign, Bob Bauer, to join with Mitt Romney's top attorney in 2012, Ben Ginsberg, to co-chair this commission.  I think it's fair to say that they may have voted for different candidates in 2012 -- (laughter) -- but what they shared was a reputation for integrity, for smarts, and a commitment to making sure that our democracy works the way it's supposed to.

And they have now, working with the rest of this commission, put together an outstanding series of recommendations with an important goal, which is that no American should have to wait more than half an hour to vote.  And they should know they should be confident that their vote is being properly counted and is secure.  A lot of the recommendations they've made are common sense; they are ones that can be embraced by all of us.  Importantly, my understanding is a lot of the commission recommendations are directed not simply to Congress or the federal government, but rather to the state and local jurisdictions who are largely responsible for our elections.

And so we intend to publicize this and to then reach out to stakeholders all across the country to make sure that we can implement this, in part because one of the troubling aspects of the work that they did was hearing from local officials indicating that we could have even more problems in the future if we don’t act now.  The good news is, is that the recommendations that are contained in this commission report are eminently glittering.

So I just want to publicly, again, thank both Bob and Ben for taking on this largely thankless job.  And I want to thank all of you for being so diligent and maintaining a sense of urgency, producing an outstanding report in a relatively short period of time.

So thank you very much, everybody.

10:57 A.M. EST

League of Women Voters

January 22, 2014

Presidential Commission on Election Administration Issues Solid Recommendations

Professionalization of Election Workforce, Benchmark for Voter Wait Times Good for American Elections

Washington, D.C.  – Today, the Presidenial Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) released their report to President Obama outlining how to improve the administration of America’s elections. The League submitted testimony to PCEA in September 2013 that urged the Commission to consider a five-point reform agenda as part of its recommendations.

“Our initial reaction is that there are many good recommendations in the PCEA report and others that we will need to look at more closely to examine the real impact on American voters,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “For example, the recommendation for all states to provide for in-person early voting is an important and very positive step,” she said.

“We are pleased to see that the bipartisan Commission was able to roll up their sleeves and get to work on some of the endemic troubles plaguing our nation’s polling places,” added MacNamara. “PCEA’s prescription for what to do about lack of resources, inadequate compliance with federal laws, the need for professionalization of the election workforce, and creating a benchmark of no one waiting to vote longer than 30 minutes, are badly needed fixes for election administrators and voters.”

“The Commission’s report was right to recommend that our nation’s elections professionals should regularly partner with experts in the field of emerging technology,” said MacNamara. “A great example of this is the Commission’s recommendation endorsing Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) transmissions of voter information to elections officials. The League believes electronic transmission should be extended to social service agencies that register voters as well,” MacNamara said. “By adopting such electronic practices, officials can eliminate costly and time consuming steps in election administration, reduce errors and increase the ease and convenience of the elections process for both their workers and for voters.”

“While the League is enthusiastic about online voter registration, the accessibility of these systems continues to be a major concern” noted MacNamara. “The League’s testimony urged the Commission to recommend online voter registration systems designed for all eligible citizens,” said MacNamara. “But a weakness of the report is the endorsement of online registration systems that many eligible voters can't use,” MacNamara said. “Of the systems in the Commission’s report, voters must have a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID in order to register to vote online. This limitation is unnecessary, will substantially reduce the effectiveness of online registration and also raises concerns about the discriminatory effect,”added MacNamara.

“We look forward to working with Commission to implement the best of these recommendations and improve how elections are run across this nation,” concluded MacNamara.

CONTACT: Kelly Ceballos

Brennan Center for Justice
January 22, 2014

Voting Commission Ideas Can Significantly Improve Elections

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued recommendations today to improve the voting experience and reduce long lines.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released the following statement:

“The Commission’s report marks a significant advance in the way we think about voting,” said Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice. “Too often voting issues have been marked by partisan discord.  The Commission makes clear that there are achievable, bipartisan reforms that can be implemented now to transform voting in America.  Most importantly, it recognizes that we can’t fix long lines until we first fix our outdated voter registration system.”

“The Commission’s recommendations are a significant step forward,” added Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “They make clear that nationwide our voting systems have common problems, which can be fixed with common, national solutions.  Especially important is the consensus that we need to modernize voter registration, make early voting available to all Americans, and put systems in place so no one waits longer than 30 minutes to vote. These will be the new benchmarks against which future elections will be judged.

“However, more must be done to make sure the voting system works for all Americans.  We need to fix the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court eviscerated last year, in order to protect against restrictive and often discriminatory voting laws.  We look forward to working with members of Congress and election officials across the country to modernize voting and bring our system into the 21st century.”

The Brennan Center’s recent report How to Fix the Voting System, outlines four ideas to improve elections. Also see more on our signature proposal, Voter Registration Modernization.

Rock The Vote
January 22, 2014



Washington, DC - Today, Rock the Vote released a field-tested suite of online voter registration (OVR) tools and a game-changing white paper -- Connected OVR: A Simple, Durable Approach to Online Vote Registration -- which charts an innovative new approach to the way Americans register to vote. These new tools are being made available free of charge at Rock the Vote’s new online resource center to support election administrators nation-wide in adopting sustainable online voter registration systems.

“This is an entirely new way to think about voter registration. The approach we lay out in our white paper could change online voter registration from being a digital version of an antiquated paper process to a comprehensive approach that leverages technology to truly modernize the process,” said Rock the Vote president Heather Smith. She continued, “More still, we are pleased to be providing these state and local elections officials with the tools they need to more efficiently and securely register voters online – free of charge.”

Rock the Vote’s white paper, written by Robinson + Yu with support from the Ford Foundation, argues for a future-proof approach to online voter registration that engages not just elections officials but universities, technology companies, government agencies and civic organizations in promoting registration to their audiences, and submitting them to the State digitally. This concept of allowing voters to complete the voter registration process in designated places beyond a .gov website, is used widely in other government processes such as tax filings where the IRS contracts with companies like H&R Block to assist individuals and submit their taxes directly.

In addition to the white paper, Rock the Vote also released today tools to facilitate online voter registration on any election’s official website, a complete technology solution developed in partnership with the TrustTheVote Project for a state-wide online voter registration system, and other resources to support the ‘connected OVR’ approach. These tools and technology solutions have been tested by Rock the Vote and its partners and helped more than 6 million voters complete registration applications. Today these free, customizable tools are available for any state or local election administrator and are featured in the new online resource center for elections officials at and on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s website. Rock the Vote’s online voter registration tools are available in English, Spanish and will soon be released in twelve Asian languages.


The white paper and Rock the Vote’s online registration tools are featured prominently in the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s report, which was released earlier today after 6 months of research and public hearings. President Obama established the Commission following his 2013 State of the Union Address to tackle the problems of long lines and other hurdles faced by voters on Election Day in 2012; it’s report details a variety of changes that elections officials can make to improve the way Americans register for and participate in elections.

Rock the Vote provided testimony and worked closely with the Commission and its members particularly as it relates to online voter registration (OVR) - a concept it has been studying, testing, and building tools to support for nearly two decades.  Rock the Vote’s white paper and online voter registration tools are available at no cost to support elections administrators in implementing the Commission’s recommendations.

“We applaud the Commission for its painstaking work to develop common sense recommendations for improving the way elections are administered in this country so that more people can participate in their democracy and election administrators have the tools they need to do their vital work,” said Rock the Vote president Heather Smith. She concluded, “If state and local election officials heed the Commission’s advice we will be that much closer to the ‘more perfect union’ our founders envisioned and citizens deserve.”

Rock the Vote has been in the voter registration business for nearly 25 years – having run the largest non-partisan voter registration drives in the last six presidential election cycles.

Rock the Vote president Heather Smith is available for media interviews.

Fair Elections Legal Network
January 22, 2014

STATEMENT: Presidential Commission Recommendations are Common Sense Improvements and Important Step Toward Election Reform

Washington, DC – The Presidential Commission on Election Administration released their recommendations for improving how elections are overseen and reducing lines at the polls. The following quote may be attributed to Robert Brandon, President of the Fair Elections Legal Network:

“The bipartisan recommendations released from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration are a compilation of the good reforms advocates have been fighting for across the country. As the Commission points out, some of the reforms like online voter registration, expanded early voting, and increased poll worker training are already in place in various jurisdictions. But for real change to be made and access to voting improved, these reforms need to be broadly implemented in many more states. The responsibility now lies with election officials, and state and local elected officials to improve how elections are run in their communities as soon as possible. We will continue our work to promote these reforms and use the Commission’s work as support for these much needed changes.”
The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is a national, nonpartisan election reform organization whose mission is to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies and improve overall election administration through administrative, legal, and legislative reform.

January 22, 2014


When millions of Americans stood in lines for hours to vote yet again in the 2012 elections, President Obama recognized that “we need to fix that.” Today, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration released a report with their recommendations on ways to improve election administration. The Commission’s recommendations are welcome but much more work remains to be done to ensure every eligible voter can exercise their right to vote.

“This is an important step forward to realize the dream of equal opportunities for political participation for all Americans. We can and must improve our election administration so that the voices of all Americans can have an impact in our politics and policy making. The Commission’s recommendations are a good first step, but to fully protect the freedom to vote for all eligible voters, Congress must act to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act,” said Miles Rapoport, President of Demos.

The Commission’s recommendations are a good first step, but to fully protect the freedom to vote for all eligible voters, Congress must act to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act
Demos applauds the Commission for recognizing that voter registration is currently a principal barrier preventing Americans from exercising their fundamental rights. We particularly support the Commission’s recommendations to:

- Expand Online Voting
- Expand Early Voting
- Enhance Poll Worker Recruitment and Training
- Ensure greater attention to language access and voters with disabilities
- Improve polling place allocation and design

While the policies called for by the Commission represent a baseline, we must go further to engage all citizens in the political process by facilitating participation, removing unnecessary barriers, and ensuring racial equity within our electoral system.

Demos will soon release a report showing how we can expand and streamline voter registration, make voting work at the polls, and protect and count every vote. This comprehensive report will highlight best electoral practices and recommend a set of policies and practices to truly bring millions of citizens to the polls to exercise their fundamental right to vote, including:

- Expanding Same Day Registration
- Expanding and enforcing the National Voter Registration Act
- Protecting against overly restrictive ID requirements

Demos calls on all states and localities to move quickly to adopt and implement these solutions, and on the federal government to provide support and incentives.

Bipartisan Policy Center
January 22, 2014

Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform Welcomes New Report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration

Washington, D.C. – Secretary Dan Glickman and Senator Olympia Snowe, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Commission on Political Reform, and Heather Gerken, a member of the BPC commission, reacted to the final report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration out this morning:

“Today’s release of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s final report comes at a critical time for our nation’s electoral system infrastructure. Americans should never have to wait for hours in line to cast their ballots, to vote on broken machines, or to find their registration record to be inaccurate. The Presidential Commission’s comprehensive slate of recommendations based on hard data, expert testimony, and research make an important contribution to election improvements,” said Snowe and Glickman.

“The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform is currently weighing many of these same issues as we seek achievable solutions to America’s partisan political divide and prepare to advocate for specific electoral and congressional reforms to help Americans achieve shared national goals. We were honored to host the Presidential Commission’s co-chairs at our public meeting in Ohio last year as well as to coordinate substantive policy discussions for members of the Presidential Commission as it completed its important work. We applaud their effort and pledge to engage on these issues in the years ahead to restore our democratic institutions to leading examples for the world to follow,” they continued.

“It is often difficult to find agreement in this fraught political environment, particularly in the area of election administration. The Presidential Commission proves that serious-minded people from both sides of the aisles can find common ground when it comes to creating the election system the American people deserve," said Gerken.

Launched in March 2013, BPC’s Commission on Political Reform will identify concrete but achievable reforms to the nation’s congressional gridlock and electoral-system dysfunction while promoting public service. In June 2014, the commission will issue its final recommendations.

American Civil Liberties Union
January 22, 2014

ACLU Comment on Presidential Election Commission Report


WASHINGTON – A report was released today entitled “The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.” The bipartisan Commission was announced by President Obama during last year’s State of the Union Address. Its mission was to identify non-partisan ways to shorten lines at polling places, promote the efficient conduct of elections, and provide better access to the polls for all voters.

Below is comment on the recommendations from Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office:

"Regardless of party, Americans agree that long lines on Election Day are unnecessary, are a hindrance to exercising the fundamental right to vote, and must be addressed. We appreciate the President’s initiative in forming this bipartisan commission and welcome their thoughtful and specific recommendations to fix the problem of long lines and other voter access issues. Overall, these are a series of recommendations that make sense, but we have to analyze them comprehensively both for their civil rights and privacy implications. We welcome efforts to improve election administration in this country, which is woefully out of date in far too many jurisdictions."

The release of these recommendations comes on the heels of last week’s congressional introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, a bill in response to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. Note that the bill and the recommendations around election administration address separate issues. While addressing election administration is critical, it is imperative for Congress to act this year to protect voters from discrimination in a common sense, bipartisan way through passage of the Voting Rights Amendments Act.

The report is available here:

The Association for Computing Machinery
January 23, 2014
Contact: Virginia Gold

USACM Statement on Presidential Commission on Election Administration Recommendations to President Obama

January 23, 2014

Below is a statement from Jeremy Epstein of the USACM Voting Committee on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration Recommendations to President Obama:

“USACM commends the Presidential Commission on Election Administration for focusing on technology as a critical aspect of modern voting systems.  The Commission’s recommendations on several key areas reflect policy positions that USACM recommended to the Commission, and has promoted in other venues to meet the significant election requirements of reliability, responsiveness, security, privacy, auditing, and accessibility. 

“The key Commission recommendations that reflect these core USACM positions include:

- Modernization of voter registration by the states through continued expansion of online voter registration and expanded state collaboration in improving both accuracy of the voter rolls and efficiency in the registration process.

- Investment in voting technology to reform the standards and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines, and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available and significantly less expensive off-the-shelf technologies and “software-only” solutions.

- Assuring that polling places are accessible to all voters and are designed to function smoothly so that they are usable for every citizen through the entire voting process.

- Conducting post-election audits of voting equipment and publicly disclosing data on machine performance in a common data format to allow ballots to be recounted accurately and without revealing voters' individual choices.

- Improving the ability of military and overseas voters to access ballots and other voting materials through increased use of the Internet, although Internet voting is not sufficiently secure for use.  It can, however, be an effective method for communication with these voters.

Jeremy Epstein chairs the USACM Voting Committee.  He is a senior computer scientist with SRI International.  He holds an MS in computer science from Purdue University.

Read more information on the USACM voter registration database report.

Read more information on the USACM position on electronic voting.

Read more information on the USACM internet voting brief.

Read the USACM letter to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

With more than 100,000 members, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council (USACM) serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community, and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology.

National Council on Disabliity
January 24, 2013

NCD Applauds Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration

Urges Additional Safeguards To Ensure Universal Voting Accessibility

WASHINGTON -- On January 22, 2014, after nearly a year of meeting and deliberating with stakeholders from across the nation, the nonpartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) released their report and recommendations spelling out specific steps that can be taken to improve election administration and accessibility.

“The recommendations and best practices urged by PCEA are an excellent foundation,” said Clyde Terry, Chair of the National Council on Disability’s (NCD) Policy Development & Program Evaluation Committee. “But, as always, implementation and enforcement are key. We must take concrete steps to ensure full participation, the removal of unnecessary barriers, and guarantee voting accessibility at every stage of the electoral process, in every state and every locality. No one wants to be doing this again in 10 years.”

As an independent federal agency that recommends disability policy to the President, the Administration and Congress, NCD was particularly pleased the PCEA echoed the recommendations issued in its own October 2013 report Experience of Voters with Disabilities in the 2012 Election Cycle”  by stressing that:

  • Compliance with existing laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) remain inconsistent and inadequate. Enforcement must be strengthened.
  • Election authorities should establish advisory groups that include voters with disabilities in meaningful and significant ways.
  • States and localities must adopt comprehensive management practices to assure accessible polling places.

The importance of these steps cannot be overstated. As PCEA stated in its report, “The share of the voting population with disabilities will also grow considerably as the Baby Boomer population ages. Issues of voting and accessibility, therefore, are not ones for a discrete subset of the population. Rather, they are issues that many, if not most, voters may experience at some point in their lives.”

NCD concurs. As recommendations are adopted and enacted, NCD also urges the Administration and Congress to take steps to ensure that states do not institute restrictive requirements which disenfranchise voters – including those with disabilities – by adding undue burdens such as requiring photo identification, repealing same-day registration, requiring proof of citizenship, reducing early voting sites and/or early voting schedules, and limiting the restoration of voting rights.

Moreover, NCD reiterates the need for state legislatures and local rulemaking authorities to conduct thorough reviews of existing guardianship laws and modifying them where necessary to ensure that all people with disabilities will have full access to the right to vote independently, alongside their non-disabled peers. 

Meaningful checks and balances must be put in place to ensure that every state and locality move quickly to adopt and implement the solutions put forward by both NCD and  PCEA. The Administration and Congress must also do their part to provide the necessary supports and incentives to make the recommendations highlighted in PCEA and NCD’s reports a reality.

Read Clyde Terry's January 9 blog post "Improving the Voting Experience in America" at:

Read NCD's October 2013 report "Experience of Voters with Disabilities in the 2012 Election Cycle" at:
Download your copy of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration report at: