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April, 2001 News Archive

NOTE: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a new and "improved" web site where it is impossible to find anything, and now my links to their articles are broken. I'm trying to find a solution to this problem.

04/30/2001 "Passage of voting bills in Missouri, Illinois appears unlikely" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Election bills designed to correct problems that came up in November are gasping on life support in the Missouri and Illinois legislatures. Because of its cost, a bill in the Missouri House was held up in the office of Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. A Senate version has so far to go before the May 18 adjournment that final passage appears unlikely. In Illinois, measures to reform the election process have been introduced but appear to have reached a dead end."

04/29/2001 "[Illinois] State worst in ballot errors" (Chicago Tribune)

"Chicago had the most error-ridden presidential election last fall of any major U.S. city, a Chicago Tribune analysis shows." Thanks mainly to Chicago and suburban Cook County, Illinois had even more uncounted ballots (190,000) than Florida (180,000). However, "Former Vice President Al Gore's victory over President George W. Bush in Illinois was so decisive, even if every uncounted ballot went to Bush he still would have lost the state. But that's cold comfort to election officials who know future contests may not be so lopsided."

Punch cards have always been error-prone. And "Poor, minority areas had the highest error rates last year--a gap seen before that is likely related to literacy, experts say." However last year the error rate was dramatically higher mainly due to two reasons: One, the ballot was redesigned to hold "456 perforated squares on ballots that used to hold 312. No other election authority in the nation uses such a crowded ballot card." Second, "The Republican-led move to eliminate straight-ticket voting, which allowed voters to complete their ballots with one punch, clearly resulted in higher error rates."

Usability tests are planned for future elections. "Historically, elections tend to be one of the least-well-funded parts of government," said R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center in Houston, a national training center for election officials. Before Florida threw a spotlight on election deficiencies, "nobody would have paid money to have usability tests done."

04/29/2001 "Elections Upgrade: Bringing the ballot to the 21st century" (editorial) (Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J.)

This newspaper makes a pitch for computerized (Intranet) voting for New Jersey: "Fast and accurate tallies, with scant room for error or fraud. An end to voter confusion. Thousands of new computers for schools or libraries. Switching to computerized voting also is taxpayer-friendly: $6 million a year for state taxpayers, not counting the gains from federal contributions, cash from selling the current voting machines, and savings from maintaining and storing antiquated machines or having to buy new electronic ones." Read all about, and try their on-line voting simulation thru May 4.

04/26/2001 "Little Change Forecast for Election Process" (New York Times)

"J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state, said election reform was one of the first casualties of the economic downturn, which has undercut state budgets. "While election reform continues to have widespread public support, the resources to implement these costly upgrades are few or nonexistent," Mr. Blackwell said. "Dollars for voting system upgrades, while desperately needed, are competing with funds for mental health services, road construction, welfare and Medicaid.""

"Most of the bills passed in other states are not likely to make big impressions on voters. Virginia, for example, has set standards for reviewing punch card ballots that are not accepted by a counting machine because chads are dangling. South Dakota has enacted a law to implement a statewide voter database that will allow more efficient administration on Election Day."

04/26/2001 "Election Reform Stymies Congress, Slowing Action by State Lawmakers" (Los Angeles Times)

"Efforts by Congress to reform presidential voting have slowed to a crawl since January. The reform push quickly bogged down as each party accused the other of seeking partisan advantage, and none of the bills is even close to a committee vote, much less floor debate."

And, "So far, only seven states have moved to revamp their election systems." - Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, and Washington.

04/25/2001 "Election reform bills seem stalled in Missouri Legislature" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Despite ballot-counting problems in Florida and an election-fraud investigation in St. Louis, bills to revise Missouri's election process are languishing in the Legislature."

The House bill [HCS 247] is being help up by Speaker Jim Kreider "because of its price tag. One part of the bill would shift the costs of elections to the state from the counties and local election authorities."

"Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-Sunset Hills, is sponsoring the elections revision measure in the Senate. [SCS 0476] It won initial approval Tuesday. But with less than four weeks remaining in the session, final passage appeared doubtful."

04/25/2001 "Fla. Votes to End Punchcard Voting" (AP)

"The Florida House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to do away with the state's punchcard voting system and its dangling, pregnant, and dimpled chads. The three ``no'' votes were all from Democrats, who complained that the state was requiring counties to upgrade voting systems without giving them the money to do it."

04/25/2001 "House Holds Election Hearing" (AP)

"Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and other state leaders are appealing for federal help to make national elections fairer, cleaner and more accurate. A House Administration Committee hearing on election system changes Wednesday is the first in the House since the 2000 presidential election was thrown into the courts by uncertainty over the vote count in Florida."

04/24/2001 "Elections officials determined to make changes" (CNN)

Although the lack of action on election reform by Congress and the White House is discouraging, many election officials say there is still much they can be doing in the meantime. "Doug Lewis, director of the Elections Center in Houston, which serves as a resource for state and local elected officials, says "There are some things that don't cost any money." For instance, about 30 states "absolutely have to define a standard of what constitutes a vote," Lewis said. And, "certainly the states can define recount procedures that are uniform."

04/24/2001 "House Addresses Election Reform" (AP)

"The House Administration Committee on Wednesday [4/25] is scheduled to hold the chamber's first hearing on overhauling voting procedures since the presidential election last fall was thrown into turmoil by the contested vote in Florida. Committee chairman Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, said he thought the hearings could regenerate interest in ensuring fair elections. ``Republicans, like Democrats, want to make sure every vote counts,'' he said. Voters ``should have sufficient voting machines. Chads should become a piece of history.''

04/21/2001 "Electoral Reform, a Hit Last Fall, Goes Amiss" (Washington Post)

"Four months after the presidential contest ended with calls for fundamental changes to the electoral system, almost no remedial laws have been enacted and the sense among election administrators is that the opportunity for significant improvements may have been lost."

""There's been a significant lack of progress in this area," said Trevor Potter, the Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a leader of one of several panels studying the problem. "Not only in Congress but a lot of legislatures, things have almost ground to a halt." The Bush White House so far has not made changing the election system a priority. The president's proposed budget, along with the budget resolutions passed by the House and Senate, set aside no funds for federal aid to improving election equipment or administration. Slumping revenue estimates in the states make it less likely there will be big new investments in voting machines. And everywhere, partisan pressures are muddying the waters."

04/18/2001 "Suits Seek Uniformity in States' Vote-Counting" (Los Angeles Times)

"In the months since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that awarded the presidential election to George W. Bush, lawsuits have started sprouting up around the nation demanding greater uniformity in statewide vote-counting. Legal experts say the suits--a byproduct of the court's decision that a lack of uniformity in vote recount procedures violated equal protection rights--will determine whether the controversial ruling has ramifications for future elections."

"The suits are also providing a new forum for national debate over how to fix the nation's ailing voting machinery--a problem brought into sharp focus by November's election. The latest such suit was filed in Los Angeles federal court Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleging that the wide variety of voting machines used in California results in sharply disparate levels of accuracy."

04/18/2001 "FBI Checks Into St. Louis Election" (AP)

"The FBI has ordered the St. Louis Election Board of Commissioners to turn over thousands of records connected with two recent elections, both tainted by allegations of vote fraud. A St. Louis grand jury is already looking into charges of fraud in the Nov. 7 general election and the city's March 6 mayoral primary."

04/10/2001 "City, county say they never got voter data" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Election officials in St. Louis and St. Louis County say they've never received state records made public by Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond that show 56,000 voters in the city and county with multiple voter registrations. As a result, those multiple registrations remained on the books for the region's April 3 elections. But a spokesman for Secretary of State Matt Blunt asserted that the lists were sent out in late February. Blunt's staff began work Monday to resend the lists to St. Louis and St. Louis County."

04/09/2001 "1 in 10 voters in city also is on rolls elsewhere" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Almost one in every 10 registered voters in St. Louis also is registered to vote elsewhere in the city or state, according to the secretary of state's latest figures. That's 24,000 of the more than 240,000 people on the city's voter rolls, the highest duplicate voter-registration percentage in the state. In St. Louis County, 32,000 registered voters, or about 3 percent of the total, also are registered somewhere else. Still unanswered, said Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., is how many of those people may have illegally cast duplicate ballots."

04/09/2001 "Meet Me In St. Louis" (commentary) (The Recorder)

Find out why the Honorable William W. Bedsworth wants move to St. Louis when he dies.

04/06/2001 "Optical scanning isn't perfect" (Miami Herald)

"Optical-scan voting systems do not guarantee problem-free elections and are not a cure-all for Florida's electoral infirmities, The Herald's statewide review of undervotes suggests... The Herald found that many recoverable votes were discarded even in counties with scanners in every precinct... Even when alerted to problems, many voters shrug and leave polling places without correcting their mistakes." - And that's their prerogative. If you don't want your vote to count, fine - you've expressed your intent. That's what I want. What I DON'T want, is for any voter to cast an undervote or overvote without realizing that's what they've done.

04/06/2001 "Florida's Unchanging Lessons" (editorial) (New York Times)

"The need to ensure that all future votes in presidential elections count remains a national imperative. On this front, there has been a distressing lack of urgency in Washington and in most state capitals."

04/06/2001 "Punch-card ballots all but dead after vote" (Miami Herald)

Florida Senate committee passes major election reform bill with several provisions, primarily: "Bans punch-card balloting in Florida and requires that any electronic vote-counting be done by machinery placed in each voting precinct, with the equipment programmed to reject overvoted ballots and advise voters who undervote. This allows both optical scanners, already placed in the precincts of 26 counties, and touch-screen computers, once the state authorizes their use."

"In the House, a pivotal committee has approved the same concepts in separate bills, setting the stage for both Senate and House in the weeks ahead to overhaul an election machinery that cast Florida's 2000 presidential vote into chaos. The one element missing is any clear definition of how ballots are to be counted by hand, in the event of an election contest such as last year's."

04/06/2001 "Rampant flaws leave citizens without voice in democracy" (USA Today)

General discussion of election problems, nothing new here, except: "St. Louis, with all its Election Day problems, spent about $1.10 per voter to run its polling operation. That's far less than other Missouri jurisdictions, such as Kansas City ($1.53) and Jackson County ($1.69)." St. louis County spent $1.62 per voter.

04/06/2001 "2ND-CHANCE VOTE SYSTEM UNDER FIRE" (Chicago tribune)

"Senate Republicans led approval Thursday of a bill that would prevent election officials in the city and suburban Cook County from using balloting technology that notifies voters if they fail to cast a vote for an elective office", claiming "the technology jeopardizes the sanctity of the secret ballot and the right of voters to decide not to vote for an office without their intent being called into question by election officials."

04/05/2001 "Technology Slashes Detroit Voting Error" (Washington Post)

"The number of Detroit voters whose ballots were invalidated dropped by almost two-thirds after the city switched from punch-card to optical-scan machines that warn of errors and allow an immediate revote, according to a congressional study to be released today" by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) - I checked his web site, unfortunately the report is not posted there.

04/05/2001 "Solving one voting problem could come down to IDs" (editorial) (Atlanta Journal)

"Indisputable proof of identification is the most routine of requirements in Americans' day-to-day existence. It's a cop-out to resist such a requirement for one of the most important civic responsibilities that Americans have. Florida voters can produce a Disney World photo identification; Georgia voters can produce easily created "identification" that doesn't even have a photograph. Try cashing a check with such paltry identification. Or renting a video. Or boarding a plane."

04/04/2001 "Poll Reform Fizzles" (USA Today)

After declaring him the winner in their recount of the Florida ballots, USA Today calls on George W. Bush to re-energize election reform momentum, which the newspaper says is stalling.


"A review of 64,248 ballots in all 67 Florida counties by The Miami Herald; its parent company, Knight Ridder; and USA Today found that the 537-vote margin of Bush, a Republican, would have increased to 1,665 votes under the counting standards advocated by supporters of Democrat Al Gore." Under most other scenarios Bush would also have won, but there were several scenarios where Gore could have won.

04/04/2001 "Democrats Ask Bush His 'Principles' on Reform" (Reuters)

"More than 200 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives asked President Bush in a letter on Wednesday to ``enunciate your principles'' on revamping the nation's problem-plagued electoral process. The House Administration Committee has scheduled a hearing for April 25 on election reform, and Democrats said they would like to know Bush's views by then. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee, said, ``If the president and Congress fail to address this issue, we cannot expect Americans to have faith in our system nor in those they elect.''

04/03/2001 "COUNTY STEPPING BEYOND PUNCH CARDS" (Chicago Tribune)

Dupage County, Illinois is testing optical scanners as a replacement for their 27-year old punch card systems.

04/03/2001 "Experts Warn That Action on Voting Is Needed Soon" (New York Times)

At a hearing by the Black Caucus, "election experts warned that Congress had been so laggard in taking up an overhaul of the voting system that meaningful change by next year's midterm elections was increasingly remote." And the states are waiting on Congress, where "more than two dozen bills were introduced this year to grant millions of dollars to the states to upgrade voting equipment, but they have languished." - And, I might add, many counties are waiting on the states - that's what I'm seeing here in St. Louis County.

"Who Won? A Herald Special Report" (Miami Herald)

"Uncharted journalistic territory: Scrutinize Florida's disputed and discarded ballots -- the lingering unknown from America's most contentious presidential election." This is a continuing series of articles examining the presidential election controversy in Florida.