WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will announce a bipartisan presidential voting commission to focus on improving the Election Day experience, The Huffington Post has learned from two sources outside the White House with knowledge of the plans.
The commission is one of a number of efforts the Obama administration is making to address the problems that plagued voting on Election Day 2012. The commission, which will focus specifically on Election Day issues and not broader voting reform, will likely be co-chaired by one Republican and one Democratic lawyer, according to one of the sources.
The White House announced Tuesday that 102-year-old Miami resident Desiline Victor will be a guest of first lady Michelle Obama during the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday night, during which Obama is expected to discuss voting reforms. Victor is a naturalized U.S. citizen who stood in line for three hours at a local library on the first Sunday of early voting until workers told her to come back later that evening. A crowd of thousands of people erupted in applause when she emerged with an "I Voted" sticker, the White House said.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in an interview with HuffPost last week that the administration was considering a wide range of options in response to the voting problems of the 2012 election.
"What we're doing right now is evaluating what are the options out there, what are the ideas, and trying to come to consensus about what can be done, whether it's supporting legislation that has been offered or will be offered, regulatory or other executive actions," Perez said. "We're trying to assess right now, so I really can't get too specific.”
Perez said voting reforms were a top priority for the Obama administration in its second term. He said he had spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder in the early morning the day after the election.
"He was actively engaged, and I've had many meetings and conversations with him about this," Perez said. "So if you're asking, looking ahead, what are the things we want to do within the department, making sure we don't repeat the shock and somnolence cycle in voting is certainly a top priority."
That "shock and somnolence cycle" to which Perez is referring has been seen in the past several elections, with voting problems getting plenty of attention around election time but not receiving much once those troubles fade in memory.
"One of our goals here is to insure that the shock-somnolence cycle is not repeated, and that's an issue of priority for this administration," Perez said. "I've given a number of speeches in this regard, and many stakeholders are taking us up on our desire to get input."
UPDATE: 10:52 p.m. -- Obama announced the formation of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. The commission will be chaired by Bob Bauer, former general counsel for the Obama campaign, and Ben Ginsberg, a former top election lawyer for Romney's 2012 operation.