Feb. 9-15, 2001
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eagleFormer presidents to oversee National Commission on Federal Election Reform

Staff report

Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford have agreed to serve as active hon- orary, bipartisan co-chairs of the newly established National Commission on Federal Election Reform, being organized by the Miller Center of Public Affairs and The Century Foundation.

Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker and former White House counsel Lloyd Cutler will co-chair the commission, which will recommend ways to improve the process used for electing federal officials, namely the president, vice president and members of Congress. Its initial focus will be on improving and standardizing the processes now being used to cast and count ballots for elected federal offices.

"This is not a commission to rewrite the Constitution or re-fight the contest in Florida," Carter and Ford said in a joint statement. "Instead, we hope to bring together thoughtful people from across the political spectrum to think about how our democratic institutions can improve the way our nation elects the leaders of our federal government, including the use of state-of-the-art technology."

In addition to holding meetings and public hearings throughout the country, the commission will have an interactive Web site to provide citizens with the opportunity to stay informed about its work and offer their suggestions. The commission plans to release its report in 2001, in time to help inform the ongoing legislative efforts of the 107th Congress.

"We applaud the attention White House and Congressional leaders are giving to election reform," Carter and Ford said. "We plan to prepare a report and sponsor research that will be of real use to the Congress and the administration as they move forward."

The commission will sponsor task forces to support its work on such subjects as the "best practices" being developed by state and local election officials, the evolution of the federal electoral process, and legal issues to be considered -- including the appropriate role of the federal government.

Baker served both as Senate majority leader and as chief of staff to President Reagan. Cutler, a Washington attorney, served as White House counsel both to presidents Carter and Clinton.

The commission will be the ninth in a series of national commissions organized by the Miller Center on issues confronting the presidency. The Century Foundation, formerly known as the Twentieth Century Fund, has a long history of establishing similar task forces and commissions to examine and suggest reform in political processes and public policy.

The commission will receive no public funds. Its work will be made possible by a group of foundations, led by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Philip Zelikow, director of the Miller Center and White Burkett Miller Professor of History, will be executive director of the commission. He will work in cooperation with Richard C. Leone, president of The Century Foundation.

Other members of the commission will be named soon.


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