Obama creates voting commission

President Obama will sign an executive order Thursday creating a presidential commission on elections, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

The president announced the group, to be co-chaired by Bob Bauer, the general counsel to the president's reelection campaign; and Ben Ginsberg, the former general counsel to Mitt Romney's presidential effort, during the State of the Union address.

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Earnest said the panel will produce a report within six months after its first public meeting, but he would not give a date for the first meeting. The commission will create recommendations "intended to serve as a best practices guide for state and local election officials to improve voters' experience at the polls under their existing election laws."

In his State of the Union speech, Obama said the "American people and… our democracy" demanded that voting access issues be addressed.

"When any Americans — no matter where they live or what their party — are denied that right simply because they can't wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals," Obama said.

But some voting rights activists have criticized the group, saying it won't do enough to reduce wait times at the polls or address systematic voting problems.

“Setting up a commission is not a bold step; it is business as usual,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters, in a statement. "The president could have done much better by pointing to real solutions like that in legislation already introduced on Capitol Hill to require early voting, set limits on waiting times, provide for portable voter registration and set up secure online voter registration.”

Earnest said Thursday that the White House continued to support alternative proposals suggested on Capitol Hill to improve voting access.