Cook County Clerk David Orr on Friday spoke out in favor of weekend voting, data-driven planning of election resources, and online, Election Day, and automatic voter registration before the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Registration errors and omissions slow lines,” Orr said. “A modern registration process should produce better lists, speed lines, and ensure that all eligible citizens can vote, but only vote once.”
Orr told the Commission about how his office uses a call center and data management tool, called an Automated Call Form, to handle more than 8,000 calls each Election Day. The tool tracks each call by precinct and issue type, allows for real-time resource allocation, and provides data for post-election analysis and tweaking of procedures.
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Orr endorsed Early Voting, no-fault Mail Voting, and electronic pollbooks – policies and tools which have been used in suburban Cook County and which other panelists from across the country also favor.
Orr also encouraged the Commission to create a national voter information tool, much like the online and mobile tool available to suburban Cook County voters. “Informed voters produce better elections,” said Orr.
Orr is one of a select group of election administrators to testify before the PCEA at two days of hearings in Cincinnati. The PCEA was formed after President Obama ordered an exploration into election issues following the 2012 Presidential Election. The commission has held public meetings in Washington, D.C.; Denver; Coral Gables, Fla.; and Philadelphia. The Ohio meetings, Sept. 19-20, are the final meetings before PCEA prepares a report of recommendations for elections.
The country should move toward weekend or holiday voting, Orr told the PCEA.
“Tuesday is an inconvenient day for everyone,” Orr said. “Weekend or holiday voting would expand the pool of available pollworkers, remove time conflicts with the workday, and enhance election authorities’ ability to use important brick-and-mortar resources: public buildings. Altogether, these factors would enhance the voter experience, help reduce lines and hopefully, boost turnout.”
Orr also noted that holding elections on weekends or holidays would alleviate security concerns regarding around the use of public school buildings – which have good geographic distribution, are accessible, and have sufficient lighting, among other attributes – while students are present.
“If Election Day remains on Tuesday,” said Orr, “I strongly believe that non-attendance days for students are essential for elections, whether schools are closed to everyone or superintendents opt for an Institute Day.”
The other speakers on Orr’s panel included:
Connie Schmidt, an election management consultant who served as Johnson County, Kansas Election Commissioner from 1995 – 2004, and City Clerk of Merriam, Kansas, from 1974 – 1995.
Dawn Williams, Marshall County, Iowa Auditor, who has overseen elections for the past 24 years.
Neal Kelley, Registrar of Voters for Orange County, California, who also serves as Vice President for the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks.
Wendy Noren, who has served as Boone County, Missouri County Clerk since 1982 and who monitored democratic elections in Kosovo in 2001.
Information on the Cook County Clerk’s office, including the online voter information tools Orr discussed, is atwww.cookcountyclerk.com.