December 2005/January 2006
By Alan W. Dowd

80 Ways to Fix the Vote
With Katrina, Rita and Iraq grabbing most of the headlines, the findings of the Commission on Federal Election Reform were released without much attention. The recommendations are just that—recommendations—and are not binding on Congress. But they include some important, provocative and arguably necessary reforms for America’s electoral system.

Commonly called the Carter-Baker Commission because of its co-chairmen, Jimmy Carter and James Baker, the 20-member commission included academics and historians as well as political notables such as Tom Daschle, Bob Michel, Lee Hamilton and Susan Molinari. Together, the commissioners delivered more than 80 recommendations. According to Baker, the recommendations strike a balance between the need for ballot integrity and the goal of ballot access.  Among the highlights are:

-The development of a system to expedite the delivery of ballots to military and overseas voters

-A requirement that states count military and overseas ballots up to 10 days after an election, so long as the ballots are postmarked by Election Day

-Uniform registration procedures within states, rather than county-by-county inconsistencies

-Uniform verification and balloting procedures within states

-Voter databases that are interoperable across state lines

-Better training of poll workers

-The use of ID cards for voters and improved efforts to verify US citizenship 

-Enhanced efforts to remove inactive voters from registration lists

-The re-enfranchisement of ex-felons “who have been convicted of a felony other than for a capital crime or one which requires enrollment with an offender registry for sex crimes”

-A requirement that electronic voting machines have a “voter-verifiable paper audit trail” to allow for more accurate, transparent and dependable recounts

-The reconstitution of state election management institutions on a nonpartisan basis

-The prohibition of senior election officials from serving or assisting political campaigns in a partisan manner (except their own campaigns)

-A request that news organizations refrain from projecting presidential election results in any state until all the polls have closed in the 48 contiguous states

-A request that news organizations delay release of exit polling data until the election is decided

-The development of a more orderly and rational presidential primary system, including four regional primaries held at one-month intervals after New Hampshire and Iowa, from March to June.

To read the Commission’s full report, visit www.american.edu/ia/cfer.

Around the Earth, Taxes Going Flat
While many Americans remain wary of the flat tax, The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund reports that other nations are embracing the flat tax as a way to revive their economies and maintain economic growth.

Estonia has had a flat tax since 1994, fueling an annual economic growth rate of 5.2 percent. In fact, Estonia is further flattening its flat tax down to 20 percent. Russia has had a flat tax since 2001. Its economy is growing at around 7 percent annually. Romania and Georgia adopted the flat tax in early 2005. The Greek government plans to follow suit.

Poland’s new government, elected in October, will likely introduce a flat tax. Plus, the lead tax advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was elected in September, advocates a flat 25-percent rate. Economic studies in Britain have found that a flat tax would attract more foreign investment and create a “mini-economic boom.”

To learn more about possible tax reforms in America, visit the Federal Tax Reform Advisory Panel at http://www.taxreformpanel.gov/.

As a contributing editor to The American Legion, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.