Live from the Pac NW Elections Conference 1

I’m sitting in a large ballroom at the Portland Red Lion, located on the Columbia River. It’s a beautiful location for a conference, and the attendance reflects this. There are at least 300 attendees, and this may be an underestimate. This is a very positive sign for this region (although having conferences every five years seems a bit infrequent).

The first session included Doug Chapin and Ray Martinez, discussing “Moving forward: HAVA II.” Ray talked about “myths and realities” of the post HAVA world. His main point was, for all the current controversy over election administration, that things had improved dramatically since 2000 (he called it a “new paradigm” in election administration). Ray had very positive things to say about the EAC, and placed most of the the blame for the agency’s failings on Congress, which, in his opinion, has not provided sufficient funds so that the agency can carry out its mandate, and then turns around and criticizes the agency for these failings. Ray thinks the future is bright for the EAC, and I hope he is correct. (Full disclosure: I am currently working on an EAC project.)

Doug followed with some comments on Pew’s Making Elections Work initiative and further comments on HAVA and election administration. His talk dovetailed nicely with Ray’s in many respects. Doug described the new “center of gravity” in election administration–resting with state capitols, not local jurisdictions nor in Congress. His most powerful metaphor, I think, was a comparison of 2002 and today. HAVA, Doug said, represented the “end of the beginning” of major election reform; today, we are in the “messy middle.” But while messy, Doug sees a period of innovation, reform, and I think ultimately dramatic improvements in election administration.

More later … onto the Washington gubernatorial race.