IF IT IS TRUE, as former President Jimmy Carter said, that Americans have lost faith in their voting system, then he and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III have lost a significant opportunity to help them restore it. A bipartisan commission led by Carter and Baker released a report Monday that proposes many reasonable ways to make voting a smoother and more trustworthy process -- but stops far short of addressing what really keeps people from the polls.
For that, the report would have to have recommended abolishing the Electoral College, the cornerstone of a winner-take-all system that leads presidential candidates to lavish their attention on a few key states. It might also have at least alluded to reforms of campaign finance laws and conflict-of-interest rules for elected officials, especially because many voters see politics as a parade of special-interest pandering in which their interests seldom count for much.
Such reforms would take tremendous political will. But that is lacking these days, so the commission limited itself to pragmatic, incremental reforms designed to boost public faith in the ballot system. With some adjustments, many of these should be adopted.
One recommendation that should become reality is a rescheduling of the presidential primaries. The report suggests holding them on a mostly regional basis and rotating the first regional primary regularly. This system would put an end to the electoral arms race in which states vie for the earliest possible primary. It's also smart to encourage mobile registration vans and electronic voting machines that produce a paper trail that can be audited. Better tracking of voters who move is another wise idea.