Action on the measures is unlikely in the Republican-led House or the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, and some voting rights advocates who have long wanted a high profile for the issue see the commission as a move in the right direction.
"I think the commission is something tangible and concrete that will help us move toward the goal of moving Congress toward national standards," said Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project. "Obama could have proposed a bill, but there is already a bill. We need to keep building public will toward fixing this, and I think the president is doing his part. The problem is Congress."
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, R, announced a bipartisan review of his state's election laws after a long ballot and shortened voting window caused wait times of several hours.
Election law observers say states are experimenting with ways to make voting easier, including online voter registration and computerized databases that keep track of a voter's information when he moves.
"The challenge for the commission will be to make sure that the participants are going to approach this in a constructive and data-driven way. If it's ideological, the commission won't accomplish much and the states won't listen," said David Becker, director of election initiatives at Pew Charitable Trusts. "But if they bring together research focused people who are not looking at elections as how a winner is determined, but who will look at it as how our democracy works, then they are going to find that the states are going to be receptive to their recommended solutions."