President Barack Obama today named Deloitte LLP Chief Executive Officer Joe Echevarria, a Walt Disney Co. executive, and scholars and state election officials to a panel that will recommend ways to make voting in U.S. elections more efficient.
The president selected 10 people for the election commission he announced in February’s State of the Union address. The co-chairmen, who Obama previously named, are Bob Bauer, who was counsel to the president’s re-election committee, and Ben Ginsberg, campaign counsel to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Along with Echevarria, the members Obama appointed today include Brian Britton, a vice president of global park operations for Disney; former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who lost the 2010 Republican Senate primary to Rand Paul and is now director of the politics institute at Harvard University’s Kennedy School; Larry Lomax, a county registrar in Nevada, home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; and Christopher Thomas, director of elections in Michigan and a former Federal Election Commission official.
The other members are Michele Coleman Mayes, vice president and general counsel for the New York Public Library and a former assistant U.S. attorney; Ann McGeehan, assistant general counsel of the Texas County and District Retirement System and former director of elections in the Texas Secretary of State’s office; Tammy Patrick, federal compliance officer for the Maricopa County, Arizona, Elections Department.
Obama cited long lines at the polls last November when he announced the commission, which will look at ways to make it easier for Americans to cast their ballots.
Black voters, who cast 93 percent of their ballots for Obama in 2012, and Hispanics, who gave him 71 percent, according to network exit polls, had average waits of 20 minutes in voting lines, according to a study by Charles Stewart III, who teaches politics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. White voters, who supported Romney by 59 percent to 39 percent, faced an average wait of about 13 minutes.
“The right to vote is one of the most essential rights provided by the Constitution,” Obama said in a statement today. “We have an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without unwarranted obstructions or unnecessary delay.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires all or part of 16 states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval before changing their voting rules. The Justice Department used that provision to reject Republican-enacted voter-identification laws in South Carolina and Texas on the grounds that they discriminated against minorities.