Carter Baker Report Beatings Continue

There is that joke about life in the office: the beatings will continue until morale improves. If that is the case then morale for the Carter-Baker report must be very high indeed.

Today, the report was attacked on the ID requirements issue in the Washington Post and to a lesser degree in the LA Times, and coverage was generally negative and on this point in the Christian Science Monitor.

It is interesting how this issue and the regional primary issue have both overwhelmed any positive message that could arise from the report. For example, the nonpartisan election officials would have been, in itself, a perfectly smart thing to build a set of recommendations around. I can easily imagine recommendations on standards for election official certification and training, improved poll worker training standards, and the like to go along with the nonpartisan recommendation.

The report seems doomed to fan the flames on both sides instead of building a consensus. It is easy to imagine how this happened. In developing a “balance” in the report, Republicans and Democrats both agreed to let the other side include one of “their” items. The problem is that election reform isn’t a highway bill where you can trade projects. In the work of the 2001 National Commission on Federal Election Reform (I was part of the professional staff there), the Commission really pushed the consensus approach as opposed to the balance recommendations approach. Without consensus and thinking through what will be the response to recommendations, it is difficult to create a report that will not, as one Democratic Staffer said, “The commission’s report will gather dust on a shelf.”