Knight-Supported Carter-Baker Commission Proposes Electoral System Reform

WASHINGTON, DC — A Knight-supported bipartisan commission has recommended a wide-ranging overhaul of the nation’s electoral system following last year’s post-presidential election uncertainty.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush have voiced support for the National Commission on Election Reform‘s recommendations, which seek to restore confidence in U.S. elections in the wake of the nation’s 2000 election ordeal.

President George W. Bush has also endorsed some of the principles of the blue-ribbon panel’s recommendations, which outline reforms intended to defend the constitutional rights of Americans.

“I accept their report and recommend the key principles drawn from the report as guidelines for meaningful reform,” President Bush said.

Honorary Co-Chair President Carter said the report was designed not to criticize or revisit the 2000 national election but to use it as an impetus to improve the electoral process.

“The Commission has tried to give very practical recommendations for Congress, the public and the news media to consider methods that we believe would address almost all of the problems so evident in the last election,” said President Carter.

The report makes 13 policy recommendations, including:

  • The adoption of a statewide voter registration system by every state.
  • A ban on the reporting of election results until after polls have closed in all 48 contiguous states.
  • States should permit provisional voting by any voter who claims to be qualified and then verify the voter’s eligibility at a later date.
  • Holding national elections on a national holiday to increase availability of poll workers and suitable polling places and to make voting easier for some workers.
  • The restoration of voting rights for otherwise eligible citizens who have been convicted of a felony once they have fully served their sentence.
  • Statewide standards for defining a vote in advance of an election should be uniform and as objective as possible.

The National Commission on Election Reform convened four public hearings across the country in preparation for the report. Topics covered included citizen participation, election administration, legal requirements and international electoral systems. Each hearing was designed to investigate ways to improve the electoral process and restore public confidence in U.S. elections.

The American National Election Studies for 1996 and 2000 reported that in 1996, three-quarters of the population thought the election had been at least somewhat fair. After 2000, that proportion fell to about one-half with close to three-quarters of Democrats, 24 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Independents doubting the fairness of the process.

Led by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, the commission’s work was funded by Knight Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Knight funding of the commission’s work supports the Foundation’s increasing focus on civic engagement.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.