Friday, March 25, 2005

Carter, Baker Start Election Mischief Commission

(This news release arrived in my email box today. It was distributed on American University letterhead.)

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE JAMES BAKER TO CONVENE NEW COMMISSION ON FEDERAL ELECTION REFORM – FIRST MEETING AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

Contact: Todd Sedmak, 202-885-5950

Washington, D.C.--(March 24, 2005)--Former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, announced today that they will co-chair a Commission on Federal Election Reform to examine the state of America’s federal elections and recommend improvements.

Carter and Baker have assembled a private, bi-partisan commission whose membership includes former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, former U.S. Representatives Lee Hamilton and Susan Molinari, university presidents, scholars and community leaders. A list of the members is attached.

After the 2000 presidential vote, former presidents Carter and Gerald Ford convened a National Commission on Election Reform, and their report contributed to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. Despite this reform, there were many problems during the election of 2002 involving both issues of inclusion and integrity.

The new Commission on Federal Election Reform will look at those and other voting problems, examine the implementation of HAVA, and propose recommendations to improve the electoral process.

“I am concerned about the state of our electoral system and believe we need to improve it,” President Carter said. “I have monitored elections all over the world, and there is much we could learn from other democracies and from our own citizens. We will try to define an electoral system for the 21st century that will make Americans proud again.”

“America’s democracy is the backbone of our society, and only through fair elections can we guarantee that our system remains healthy,” former Secretary Baker said. “To help reach that goal, I welcome the opportunity of working with President Jimmy Carter on a bi-partisan commission that will recommend ways to improve our federal voting process. A prior commission, which President Carter co-chaired with President Gerald Ford, made recommendations that resulted in significant changes for the 2004 election. But more can be done to guarantee the integrity and accuracy of our elections.”

The Center for Democracy and Election Management (CDEM) at American University will organize the work of the Commission, in association with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, The Carter Center, and electionline.org, a national clearinghouse of election reform information sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Dr. Robert A. Pastor, CDEM Director, is the Executive Director of the Commission. ”We will assemble a group of academic advisors that will prepare background analyses for the Commission,” said Dr. Pastor, “and we will reach out to seek the views of representatives from a wide-ranging group of nongovernmental organizations involved in election-related issues.” Doug Chapin, Director of electionline.org, will serve as Research Director for the Commission.

The Commission plans to hold two public hearings -- the first on April 18 at American University in Washington, D.C., and the second at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston at a date in June -- with the goal of releasing a report in September when Congress returns from its Labor Day 2005 recess.

Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform

Members Biographies

Co-Chairs:

President Jimmy Carter
President Carter was the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and 83rd Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. In 1982 he founded the Carter Center as a forum for mediating conflicts and promoting democracy, health care, and human rights. He co-chaired with former President Gerald Ford the National Commission on Election Reform.

The Honorable James A. Baker, III

James A. Baker, III has served in senior government positions under three United States Presidents. He served as Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, and White House Chief of Staff. Mr. Baker is presently a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts and Honorary Chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

Executive Director:

Robert Pastor
Dr. Robert Pastor is the Director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management and Vice President of International Affairs at American University. Before coming to AU in 2002, Pastor was Professor at Emory University and Founding Director of The Carter Center’s Latin American and Democracy Programs, where he organized the monitoring of elections all over the world. He was Senior Advisor to the National Commission on Election Reform.

Other Members:

Ms. Betty Castor
Betty Castor was the 2004 Democratic Party nominee for the US Senate from Florida. Castor served as Florida Commissioner of Education from 1986-93. She served three terms as a state senator from the west coast of Florida, becoming the first female to hold the position of President Pro Tempore (1985-86).

Hon. Tom Daschle
Tom Daschle was elected and served as a U.S. Congressman (1978-86) and U.S. Senator from South Dakota (1986-2004). From 1994-2004, he was the Senate Minority Leader. In 2005, Senator Daschle joined the Legislative and Public Policy Group of the law firm Alston & Bird, LLP.

Ms. Rita DiMartino
Rita Dimartino was the Vice President of Congressional Relations for AT&T where she assisted in AT&T's relations with the administration, Congress, and state governments. DiMartino was appointed in February 2002 as the Principal U.S. Delegate to the Inter-American Commission of Women.

Hon. Lee Hamilton
Lee Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Prior to becoming director of the Woodrow Wilson Center in 1999, Hamilton served for 34 years in Congress representing Indiana's Ninth District. During his tenure, he served as Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was Vice Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and Co-chair with Senator Howard Baker of the Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos.

Ms. Kay Coles James

Kay Coles James was the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management from 2001 to 2005. James served as a Senior Fellow and Director of The Citizenship Project at the Heritage Foundation. Under President George H. W. Bush, James was an Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services.

Dr. Benjamin Ladner

Benjamin Ladner is the President of American University in Washington, D.C. As President since 1994, Dr. Ladner has led the transformation of AU into a distinctive, global university with a reputation as "a private university with a public responsibility." Dr. Ladner serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Consortium of fourteen Universities in the Washington Metropolitan area. Before coming to AU, he was President of the National Faculty, an association of university professors founded by Phi Beta Kappa.

Dr. David Leebron

David Leebron was appointed president of Rice University in Houston, Texas in 2004. Leebron joined Rice from Columbia University School of Law, where he was Dean since 1996 and a faculty member since 1989. Prior to that, he was a professor of law at New York University and director of NYU’s International Legal Studies Program.

Dr. Nelson Lund

Nelson Lund is the Patrick Henry Professor of Constitution Law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University in Virginia. Professor Lund served in the White House as associate counsel to the president from 1989 to 1992. He served as a law clerk to Justice Patrick Higginbotham of the Court of Appeals and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Dr. Shirley Malcom

Shirley Malcom is Head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Malcom served n the National Science Board, the governing board of the National Science Foundation from 1994-2001, and has served on the Boards of the Carnegie Corporation, the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, and CalTech.

Hon. Bob Michel

Bob Michel was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois from 1957 to 1993. He served as Minority Whip for the ninety-fourth through ninety-sixth Congresses and Minority Leader for the ninety seventh through one hundred third Congresses. He was Vice Chair of the Carter-Ford National Commission on Election Reform.

Hon. Susan Molinari

Susan Molinari is the President and CEO of the Washington Group, a government relations and lobbying firm. She was a member of Congress from New York from 1990 to 1997. In 1994, she was elected to the Republican Majority Leadership. She was twice elected to the New York City Council and was Minority Leader on the Council.

Hon. Robert Mosbacher

Robert Mosbacher is chairman of Mosbacher Energy Company. He is the past chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as National Finance Chairman for the election campaigns of Presidents Ford and George H. W. Bush. He served as Secretary of Commerce under President Bush from 1989 to 1992.

Hon. Ralph Munro

Ralph Munro was the Secretary of State for Washington State from 1980 to 2001. Under Mr. Munro’s leadership, Washington State saw significant advancement in the efficiency of state election services including absentee voting, voter registration, election reporting and voter information.

Mr. Spencer Overton

Spencer Overton is Associate Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School where his scholarly interests include voting rights, race, and campaign finance. Overton was Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow at Harvard Law School and serves as a director of the National Voting rights Institute and the Fannie Lou Hamer Project. He practiced law with Debevoise and Plimpton and is on the Board of Common Cause.

Ms. Sharon Priest

Sharon Priest currently chairs the Arkansas State Election Improvement Study Commission, the State Board of election Commissioners, and the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission. She was the first woman elected Arkansas Secretary of State in 1994 and was President of the National Association of Secretaries of State. She has been elected to public office six times from 1986 to the present, including Little Rock Board of Directors (1986-90), Vice-Mayor of Little Rock (1989-90), and Mayor of Little Rock (1991-92).

Mr. Raul Yzaguirre

Raul Yzaguirre is presidential professor of practice in community development and civil rights at Arizona State University. From 1974 to 2004, Yzaguirre was president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s leading Hispanic advocacy organization and the largest constituency-based national Latino organization.
I'll comment on this development later, after I've had a chance to review news reports on the Carter-Baker Commission.

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