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February, 2001 News Archive

"The Florida Count: What went wrong..." (Miami Herald)

"The Herald is reviewing about 60,000 so-called undervotes in all 67 Florida counties, looking into voting irregularities to help explain what went wrong on Election Day." This is a continuing series of articles examining the presidential election controversy in Florida.

02/28/2001 "Black Caucus holds hearing on Florida voting" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"The Congressional Black Caucus held a six-hour session Tuesday lamenting the presidential election in Florida. At the hearing, civil rights groups and Democratic leaders called for an accelerated federal fix to electoral problems."

02/27/2001 "Election Officials Face the Challenge of Chads" (Los Angeles Times)

"Los Angeles County Registrar Conny McCormack said she is convinced that the cardboard creeps don't stand a chance, thanks to the Florida recount drama. "We couldn't have bought this kind of public awareness campaign," said McCormack, who oversees the nation's largest voting jurisdiction. "Who isn't going to look at their cards now and make sure they don't have hanging chads?" In the unlikely case that chads do become an issue in the next few months, McCormack and other election officials are confident that a repeat of the Florida debacle is not in the cards. In California, county registrars of voters and local election chiefs operate under standardized, statewide guidelines for counting and recounting ballots. "We also clean our machines after every election. Florida didn't in eight years.""

02/27/2001 "Costello meets election officials to seek improvements to system " (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"To ensure that the country does not have to go through another recount mess such as the one in Florida, election officials in three Metro East counties on Monday suggested simultaneous poll closing throughout the U.S. and imposing a gag order on the media until all the polls are closed. They also strongly pressed for more mandatory training of election judges. Those were three of the overwhelming sentiments shared with U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, during a meeting of election officials from St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties on Monday at Southwestern Illinois College."

02/27/2001 "1,000 St. Louis voters may be registered at fake addresses" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Canvassers from the St. Louis Election Board have identified close to 1,000 city voters who appear to be registered from fake addresses -- vacant lots or abandoned buildings. Those suspect voters are in addition to more than 3,800 suspect voter registrations that a grand jury continues to investigate."

02/24/2001 "Task Force Urges Florida Officials to Eliminate Punch Cards, Paper Ballots" (AP)

"A task force recommended Friday that Florida get rid of punch card and paper ballots and use optical scanning equipment in all 67 counties during the 2002 election. However, the panel said the state should delay investing up to $200 million for touch-screen voting technology, citing a recent study that found the equipment may have as high an error rate as the much-maligned punch cards."

02/19/2001 "State lawmakers balk at voting machine costs" (Miami Herald)

"Opposition is emerging in the Legislature to paying for Florida's change of voting machinery in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election, with some lawmakers saying the state needs to avoid a costly, hasty response." As the bad memory of the last presidential election starts to fade, so does the state's enthusiasm for doing what ever it takes to prevent a reoccurrence of that nightmare. In order to postpone a complete overhaul, the state may just replace the punch card systems used in 24 counties with optical systems currently used in 41 of the counties. "In addition, the task force says, ballots should be counted on an optical scanner in each voting precinct, which only 22 counties now have." Gov. Bush's task force expects to release its recommendations Friday.

02/15/2001 "City voter fraud inquiry widens to November vote" (St Louis Post-Dispatch)

"St. Louis Election Board officials want to examine 29,500 voter registration cards that came in shortly before the deadline for the Nov. 7 election, in light of their discovery that most of 3,000 cards turned in on deadline for next month's mayoral primary are bogus."

02/15/2001 "House in Dispute Over Election Reform Panel" (Washington Post)

"A dispute between House Republicans and Democrats over the composition of a bipartisan commission on election reform is threatening to undermine efforts to examine proposed changes to the country's election system even before they begin."

"Chief Deputy Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in an interview yesterday that he will chair the select committee's first meeting, after the Presidents' Day congressional recess, while House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) held a news conference to announce the creation of an election reform panel made up of Democrats only."

""The mission is to work to ensure we have the greatest possible confidence in the election system, from registration to results," he said. "It's clear the system can be improved, and the federal government has a role to play in that." Blunt declined to specify how large the committee will be or what level of funding it will receive, but added that he hopes to consider a wide array of policy proposals. Some lawmakers have already suggested changes, including a universal closing time for polls, an extended voting period and more funding for technologically advanced balloting."

02/15/2001 "Weighing election turmoil, states target media" (CNN)

"Lawmakers in more than a half-dozen states want to do more than just chastise the media for this year's disastrous election coverage, seeking instead to clamp down on exit polling and the rush to pronounce winners. In Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, proposed legislation would keep exit pollsters hundreds of feet from voting booths. A Mississippi lawmaker wants to slap a $1,000 fine on anyone who publishes election results before polls close. North Dakota and Massachusetts are looking to restrict early news of election results."

02/14/2001 "Updating voting machines could take a decade" (USA Today)

"If the nation decided to dump its antiquated voting machines tomorrow and get new ones, it wouldn't be able to do it. In fact, replacing the now-suspect punch-card machines that are common across the country probably can't be accomplished by the next presidential election in 2004, and a complete modernization could take a decade, according to election officials and executives in America's tiny voting equipment industry. Fewer than a dozen U.S. companies make voting equipment, and even the largest of those has limited manufacturing capacity. Even more crucial, they don't have enough trained personnel to carry out a crash national election upgrade. "I don't think the industry is ready for the demand that is potentially going to come," says Kimball Brace, a leading election consultant. "What happens when Miami-Dade, Dallas and Chicago say all of the sudden, 'We'd like to buy'? There is no manufacturer out there big enough ," Brace says."

02/14/2001 "Networks to promise better election coverage" (CNN)

"Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-Lousiana, says the networks used "clearly flawed data models and clearly biased statistical results" and, by awarding Florida's key 25 electoral votes to Gore early in the evening of November 7, may have influenced voter turnout in Western states where polls were still open."

"CNN's analysts, in a highly critical report, said television interfered with the electoral process. "In our opinion, that constitutes an abuse of power, if unintentionally so, by CNN and by all the mainstream television news operations," their analysis said."

There was also wide support among the networks for legislation being proposed by Tauzin and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would set a uniform poll-closing time for the nation."

02/13/2001 "Voter registration fraud is alleged" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"St. Louis Election Board officials are seeking a criminal investigation into 3,000 voter registration cards -- some registering dead people -- delivered right before the deadline for the March 6 mayoral primary. As of late Monday, at least 500 cards had been determined to be fraudulent. In many cases, the people contacted had no idea that they had been registered, said city Republican elections director Kevin Coan."

02/12/2001 "A California County Touches Future of Voting" (New York Times)

"Riverside County, with 635,000 registered voters, is the largest county in the nation to have converted entirely to touch-screen voting. It spent nearly $14 million on 4,250 machines for its 714 precincts last fall, just in time for the presidential election, and deployed some of them again last week in a special election for a seat in the California Assembly."

02/12/2001 "Fraud or disenfranchisement?" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"IF the margin of victory in the presidential election had been 900 votes in Missouri instead of Florida, the allegations of voter fraud and disenfranchisement in St. Louis would have made Missouri election officials look as bad as those in Florida. That's why officials have to get to the bottom of what went wrong on election day."

"Democrats filed suit to keep the polls open late. Attorney Douglas Dowd represented Robert D. Odom, who claimed not to have been able to vote. It turns out Robert D. Odom died in 1999." - Here in Missouri, not only do we elect dead men to public office, but we keep the polls open late to ensure they can vote!

02/09/2001 "Congress Plans Study of Voting Processes and TV Coverage" (AP) (New York Times)

"Television network presidents are scheduled to testify before Congress next week about their election night coverage. Representative Billy Tauzin, Republican of Louisiana, said today that changes were necessary because the networks had based their projections last fall on models that were "clearly flawed." And even if those models were not intentionally biased, Tauzin said, they had the effect of favoring Democrats. In addition, he expected that Congress would establish a uniform time for polls to close across the country. President Bush has said he was especially concerned with the matter of early projections. In fact, Bush called Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois on Monday and asked him to move ahead with appointing a special committee to look into early projections and three other matters."

02/09/2001 "City Unlikely to Change Voting Gear by November" (AP) (New York Times)

New York City, "which relies on 40-year-old voting machines that regularly break down and where other polling glitches are routine, is not about to see election reform or new voting technology any time soon. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who complained in November that he had been forced to wait more than 30 minutes to vote at his polling place on the Upper East Side, now appears to be backing down from a pledge to push for computerized alternatives to the city's 6,400 worn-out mechanical voting machines. The City Council [government operations] committee, lacking any authority to impose reforms on its own, nonetheless spent more than four hours yesterday outlining the flaws in an antiquated voting system that one of its members, Adolfo Carrión Jr., a Bronx Democrat, called "really, truly embarrassing."" - This is why it is necessary to have federal funding, standards, and authority to force cities and counties to clean up their acts.

02/08/2001 "House lawmakers may suggest uniform election poll closing time" (CNN)

"Several House Republican lawmakers, reviewing why the major TV news organizations botched Election Night calls in last year's presidential race, said Thursday they may suggest a uniform closing time for polling places across the country, among other electoral reforms. On Election Night, November 7, CNN first called Florida for Democrat Al Gore, as did the other networks, only to later retract that projection. The initial call was made before polls had closed in the state's western Panhandle, which is in the Central time zone."

"Lawmakers appearing with Tauzin speculated that a uniform poll closing time could make more accurate data available to everyone at once, and would keep voters from being discouraged from going to the polls if their candidate appears to be losing elsewhere. "This is not a Democratic or Republican issue," said Rep. Christopher Cox, R-California. "It is about fairness and the way our system works.""

"A sweeping independent investigation, commissioned by the network, examined how CNN handled Election Night 2000. "The final judgment of news quality is that CNN's election night coverage was a debacle," the report concluded. "In its coverage of the 2000 presidential election, television put too high a premium on timeliness and competition, to the detriment of accurate and responsible reporting of election night returns.""

02/07/2001 "Coalition of county clerks opposes early voting bills" (AP) (Jefferson City News Tribune)

"A coalition of county clerks says legislation allowing Missourians to vote before Election Day would be too expensive for counties to implement. But the House Elections Committee chairman said Tuesday that early voting legislation is his top priority for changing Missouri's election laws. The 17 clerks, all from southwest Missouri, submitted written testimony for a hearing Tuesday evening on the early voting measure sponsored by the committee chairman, Rep. Jim Seigfreid, D-Marshall."

02/07/2001 "Dems To Create Election Reform Panel" (AP) (New York Times)

"House Democrats, who prodded President Bush privately on the issue of election reform over the weekend, intend to announce creation of a panel, possibly as early as Thursday, to investigate problems that plagued last year's presidential voting. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a brief interview in the Capitol on Wednesday that he intends to create a special, temporary House committee to look into the issue. ``We're going to be bipartisan on it. That's the intent,'' he said, adding he would act ``as soon as we can get things put together.''"

02/07/2001 "Nation's First Statewide Mail-In Vote Had No Major Glitches, Study Says" (AP) (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Oregon's historic vote-by-mail election in November generally worked well and the system needs only relatively minor changes, a task force of elections officials has concluded."- I do not like that system for a number of reasons and I hope it will not be adopted by other states. Related articles: Vote-by-Mail Delivered, But It Wasn't Letter-Perfect and A 'modern' democracy that can't count votes.

02/06/2001 "House Members Vow to Aid State Voting System Changes" (Washington Post)

"Key members of Congress assured state election officials yesterday there would be money and help coming from Washington this year to improve voting systems in the wake of the Florida presidential recount. The chairman of the House Administration Committee and its senior Democrat told a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State they hope to steer bipartisan legislation to early passage."

"The secretaries of state, who run elections in most jurisdictions, said they welcomed the prospect of federal financial help, but offered several cautions about Washington's intervention in what has traditionally been a state and local domain."

"Utah Lt. Gov. Olene S. Walker said she was "concerned that if we turn to Congress for funding, they will mandate specific changes" in state election procedures. Referring to the Florida imbroglio, she said, "I hope this little blip will not change our determination to maintain our right" to run elections." - Florida was a "little blip"???

"Arkansas Secretary of State Sharon Priest, the head of the association's task force that proposed a set of general principles for election reform, including a call for federal funding, expressed strong skepticism about the common feature of almost all the pending House and Senate bills -- creation of a federal commission to study election problems and recommend solutions. Priest told reporters no such body is necessary. "All the research already exists. We've known for a long time what needs to be done."" - I think if you've known for a long time what needs to be done, but you haven't been doing it, then it's time for you to find a new job. I also think that fixing our election systems will take a lot more than just federal funding. Replacing outdated voting machines is just one of many issues. We need election officials who have open minds and who are willing to change their ways, not election officials whose attitude is "don't tell me how to do my job".

02/05/2001 "Steps for Ballot Reform" (editorial) (New York Times)

"Comprehensive ballot reform is as much about political accountability as it is about improving the mechanics of voting. For too long, local governments have been left to conduct elections with insufficient resources and guidance. Last November's experience argues for a reversal of this historical delegation. State governments must fulfill their constitutional duty by taking a more active role in running elections, and by ensuring that they conform to uniform standards. Congress, for its part, must assert a federal interest in the integrity of the process and in guarding the right of citizens to have their votes weighed equally."

"The failures in November, if anything, look worse today, now that a full accounting from the states is available. Florida was not the only place where confusion reigned. It took Oregon nine days to determine a winner. New Mexico did not do so until Nov. 30. In hundreds of jurisdictions around the country, unreliable equipment, errors by ill-informed voters, inaccurate voter registration rolls, abuses in the absentee-voting process and staffing problems at polling places contributed to the tangled outcome."

"Within Florida, where the legal skirmishing focused mostly on counties that used punch card systems, the array of problems was broader than first imagined. The highest rates of discarded ballots were in counties that used paper ballots but lacked on-site optical scanning machines. The same voting system in counties that paid to have the scanners at precincts proved very reliable"

"Because the Constitution grants states direct control over presidential elections, Congress can best protect the federal interest in their uniformity and integrity by offering grants to states, provided their electoral reforms meet certain standards."

02/05/2001 "The Perils of High-Tech Voting" (opinion) (New York Times)

"Paperless electronic systems may virtually eliminate voter error, but they also multiply possibilities for tampering. Many independent voting security specialists doubt that any electronic system can be both secure and anonymous. Internet voting compounds the risks. So what can be usable, secure and anonymous? Paradoxically, it is the paper ballot. Not the folded sheet stuffed in a box, but a laser-printed ballot that would let each voter review all choices before exiting the polls. Because the machine would mark ballots uniformly and refuse to accept common errors, voters would be confident that their intentions would register. Such paper ballots could be machine-counted with high accuracy and would remain available for auditing. This hybrid system would not be cheap. It would not be flashy. But it would work."

02/03/2001 "State Secretaries Want Voting Reform" (New York Times)

"Spurred by the memory of dangling chads, 38 of the nation's secretaries of state -- including Katherine Harris of Florida -- are ready to recommend changes in the ways Americans cast their votes. Keeping the prolonged 2000 presidential election in mind, the National Association of Secretaries of State will release a report on election standards Monday at its winter conference, hoping to avoid uncertain election results like those recently seen in Florida." The report will make 11 recommendations. But, "Nowhere in the report are there discussions of national uniformity in regard to voting standards, what constitutes a vote or endorsement for a particular voting machine or technology. Secretary of State Jim Bennett of Alabama, also a task force member, agreed that while uniformity is necessary within states, it is not vital across the country."

"The secretaries of state conference, which is in Washington, includes an exhibit of electoral equipment in which several companies hope to sell new technologies to the state elections officials. Among those businesses is Web Tools International of Newport Beach, Calif., and Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb., both of which are showing systems that would allow voters to cast ballots by touching their selection on a computer screen."

"Separately, the Federal Election Commission this week requested $3 million from President Bush and Congress to seed operations at the FEC's Office of Election Administration, which is in charge of helping state and local election officials develop standards."

02/01/2001 "No E(asy) Cure" (Scientific American)

"Overall, it seems unlikely that electronic voting would fix the kind of problem that happened in Florida, where the margin for error in the voting systems was greater than the margin of victory. Of course, e-voting would have spared all those dedicated poll workers from hours of ballot checking, prevented the seemingly endless court battles over recounts and kept chad jokes at bay. But even if you could prove that electronic systems were the most reliable--doubtful, considering the Y2K bug--democracy is in part about perception and the reinforcement of trust. There is a comforting, ritual quality to that painstaking ballot counting and its close, bipartisan observance. In a narrow election decided wholly by electronic voting, there would be no comparable way to convince people that every vote really did count."

02/01/2001 "In First Meeting, Bush and Black Caucus Discuss Voting" (Washington Post)

"Bush said he would favor making changes to ensure that fewer registered voters are deterred from casting ballots, as civil rights leaders contend occurred during Florida's presidential election. "If there are areas where people are discriminated against, we need to change it," Bush said. "This is America. Everyone deserves the right to vote.""