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Accusations of voter fraud, and voter suppression continue to abound in the US presidential campaign, with both democrats and republicans blaming each other. Professor Spencer Overton believes that there is a need to curb political manipulation as well as a need for greater transparency.

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ZAA NKWETA, TRNN: Accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression continue to abound in the US presidential campaign, with both Democrats and Republicans blaming each other. Professor Spencer Overton of George Washington University’s law school believes that the American voting system is in need of transparency and a reform. I had a chance to speak to him earlier in Washington.

PROF. SPENCER OVERTON, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: I think there are some big-picture things that we need to do to engage in reform. I mean, certainly, between now and election day, Americans need to go to the polls, they need to vote. In talking about these issues, certainly we don’t want to discourage people from voting. So people need to go to the proper polling place, take the necessary ID, and they need to vote. In terms of big-picture reforms, I think we need to do two things. The first big thing we need to do is curb manipulation by politicians. So what does that mean? That means we need to have independent commissions that administer elections and that draw districts, that engage in testing and auditing of these machines. We also need to open up access to more voters. The United States is in the bottom 19 percent of all democracies in terms of voter participation. That’s in part because of some of the problems with regard to administration and the fact that it’s more difficult to cast a ballot in the United States than in many other democracies in the world. So we need things like election-day registration, which would allow somebody to cast their ballot on election day, or register the vote and then cast the ballot on the same day, on election day. We need things like restoring voting rights to former offenders who’ve served their time. You know, there are states here in the United States—one of them is a swing state, Virginia—where they disenfranchise people who’ve committed a felony for life. And we’ve got two states, Virginia and Kentucky, that do this, and they’re alone with Armenia as the only democracies in the world that disenfranchise former offenders for life. And as a result, in Virginia, 25 percent of African-American males can’t vote. Across the United States there are over two million people who can’t vote who have completely served their time. That’s more people than in the states of Delaware, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming combined, so more people than in these four states who can’t vote who completely served their time. And so we need reforms that allow for greater access, greater participation. We need to stop unnecessary barriers like over-inclusive and arbitrary purges. We need to really just open up the process so that voting is easier, so that we truly have government of, by, and for the people.


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Spencer Overton is Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School, where he specializes in the law of democracy. Professor Overton's academic articles on election law have appeared in several leading law journals, and his book "Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression"" was recently published and released by W.W. Norton. He was also a commissioner on the Jimmy Carter-James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform as well as the Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling. Professor Overton currently serves on the boards of Common Cause