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December, 2000 News Archive

12/28/2000 "2000 Election Data Shows Undervote Rates Consistent Among All Voting Equipment" (press release from Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox)

"Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox said today that a new statistical analysis of the November 7th, 2000 election results shows consistent rates of 'undervotes' regardless of the type of voting equipment used, and none of the three major systems employed in Georgia counties offers a significant advantage in assuring a full and accurate tally of votes."

"Almost 95,000 Georgians who went to the polls either chose not to vote for president or, by error, lost the right to have their vote counted. 'I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that so many citizens chose not to make a selection in the most important race on the ballot,' said Secretary of State Cox. 'One cannot help but conclude, then, that the votes of thousands of Georgians who thought they had made a choice were not counted because of confusion, error, or equipment failure,' Ms. Cox added."

"Ms. Cox said the data underscores her view that Georgia should move toward the adoption of a uniform system of state-of-the-art electronic voting equipment to reduce voter error and add convenience and speed to the vote counting process."

"The Secretary of State’s study found that undervotes (the difference between the number of actual ballots cast and the number of votes recorded in final certified results) in the presidential race showed a statewide mean average of 4.4 %. The mean averages of counties aggregated by voting equipment are: Punch Card: 4.6%, Optical Scan: 4.5% and Lever Machine: 4.2%."

12/27/2000 "A Racial Gap in Voided Votes" (Washington Post)

"This election the Republican-dominated state Senate refused to let Cook County use equipment on its new $26 million ballot counting machines that catches many balloting errors. After filling out their ballots, voters feed them into counting machines in the precincts, which spit them out if certain types of mistakes are noted. Voters then get a second chance to cast valid ballots."

""We can dramatically decrease that number" of ruined votes by flipping on the second-chance devices, Orr said. Some 120,000 of Cook County's ballots didn't count -- 70,000 in Chicago and 50,000 in surrounding towns."

"The Illinois legislature strictly regulates ballot machines, and while it has allowed the kinds of new optical scanners used by DeKalb and McHenry counties to employ the second-chance technology, it hasn't updated the law governing the approved operations of the type of older punch-card equipment Cook County uses."

"Using the new equipment, DeKalb and McHenry reduced their ballot spoilage rates to 0.3 percent in this election -- a tiny fraction of Cook County's rate."

12/26/2000 "Election Reforms? Don't Hold Your Breath" (SF Chronicle)

"Reforming the federal election system is a formidable task. Constitutional law experts contacted by The Chronicle are skeptical about the prospect for serious reform, regardless of how much the public may want it after this year's grueling 36-day vote-counting ordeal in Florida." This is the conventional wisdom, given how evenly and bitterly Congress is now divided. "Measures like [the Election Reform Act of 2000], which would recommend relatively minor electoral changes and provide federal funds to help improve the systems used to vote and count the votes, are given the greatest chance of passage." Still, some are optimistic about the chances for abolishing the Electoral College: "David Enrich of Citizens for True Democracy, says there is already considerable bipartisan support for scrapping the Electoral College," counting both Bob Dole and Hillary Clinton.

12/25/2000 "Ineligible voters, dead man voted in Miami, paper says" (Reuters)

"A dead man and scores of unregistered voters cast ballots in the Miami area in the presidential election, The Miami Herald said Sunday in publishing the results of its continuing investigation into the hotly disputed Florida vote."

12/24/2000 "Fix the Vote, but Skip the Uniformity " by R. Doug Lewis (The Washington Post)

Lewis is the executive director of The Election Center in Houston. In his opinion "America's voting system is not totally broken and does not need a major overhaul", only some minor fine-tuning. Some of the fine-tuning he suggests is self-serving, such as federal dollars to train local election officials - a service he provides. He bemoans the "a hue and cry for wholesale reforms" and is quick to dismiss new ideas from "a parade of pundits second-guessing the way we choose our presidents". He seems to be satisfied with the status quo, including punch-card ballots. He seems pleased that "between 95 and 99.4 percent [of American voters], depending on the county -- cast their ballots correctly" and does not seem troubled by the millions who did not. And he actually says, "our decentralized system allows for flexibility and innovation." What flexibility? What innovation? What a mess!

Even so, he does have a few suggestions that I hope will be considered by Congress, for example: "Congress should give local and state election administrators the right to record and use the Social Security numbers of all voters. Appropriate safeguards can be devised for meeting privacy issues. Use of Social Security numbers is critical to protecting the rights of individuals -- to keep them from inadvertently being removed from voter rolls as felons, or confused with individuals of the same name or birth date. How many Mary Smiths or Jesus Martinezes are there? It was for exactly that reason that Congress amended the Social Security Act in 1994 to permit the use of Social Security numbers by state motor vehicle departments and by state and local courts. It makes no sense that election officials are still prohibited by Congress from using them."

12/18/2000 "Public Backs Uniform U.S. Voting Rules " (The Washington Post)

"Overwhelming majorities of Americans support a major overhaul of election rules and procedures including a uniform poll-closing time across the nation, a standard ballot design and consistent rules for conducting recounts, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll."

"The survey also found that most Americans want to strip authority for setting election rules from local and state officials and give the federal government the task of imposing order on election laws and practices that currently vary widely from state to state and county to county."

"On question after question, the survey suggests that the public, sharply divided at virtually every bizarre twist and turn of the recent post-election drama, has finally found common ground: Nearly everyone agrees that America must change the way it elects its president."

(click here for the complete poll results)

12/17/2000 "Lawmakers are trying to update how U.S. votes" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

A "machine, designed to reduce the errors of existing punch-card systems, would cost between $5,000 and $6,000. Those machines are the centerpiece of a proposal by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to allow punch-card counties to use the scanners in each precinct. Voters would be able to feed their ballots into a punch-card reader, which could detect errors that otherwise would render the ballot invalid. It could detect, for example, if a voter mistakenly had punched holes for two candidates in the same race."

"'Election administration is one of the most poorly funded applications of local government,' said Roy Saltman, a computer scientist and author of a 1988 National Bureau of Standards study that recommended an end to punch-card ballots because of the errors associated with chad. 'It's funded by local government, primarily, and given the choices between more policemen, more teachers, more welfare, more road construction and a new ballot system, a new ballot system is down at the bottom.' But Saltman said Florida's five-week postelection PR nightmare appears to have led to a change in priorities."

"Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have filed a bill that would provide up to $100 million a year in matching funds for voting-system upgrades. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., proposed a $250 million matching-grant program to help out states that want to modernize their equipment. The offer of economic help for the upgrades is a rare and welcome boon for local officials accustomed to putting on elections with a shoestring budget."

12/15/2000 "Election reform turns into hot issue" (Contra Costa Times)

"There has been some talk of federal standards, but few expect that to happen. About six different plans are under consideration on Capitol Hill. The most widely discussed is one by Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., which Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., joined Thursday. It calls for study of election procedures, developing voluntary standards for voting systems and providing a nominal amount of money for states and local governments that improve their systems to conform with those standards. In the aftermath of the Florida count, the plans will draw a lot of attention in Washington, predicted Richard Smolka, editor of Election Administration Reports, a newsletter for election officials."

12/14/2000 "Bush's Brother Jeb Pledges Florida Election Reform" (Reuters)

"'Today we begin an important first step in addressing statewide election reform for the people of Florida,' Jeb Bush told reporters, announcing the formation of a new task force to look at election procedures, standards and technology used in Florida."

12/14/2000 "Checks reveal thousands of tainted votes" (Reuters)

"Florida's presidential election tally includes thousands of votes that apparently shouldn't have counted. It's impossible to determine which of the presidential candidates the invalid votes favored." Also, "In Duval and Leon Counties, elections officials discovered two people who voted four times."

12/14/2000 "State Officials Hear Warning in Court's Rebuke" (The Washington Post)

"State officials around the nation received fair warning from the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday that they could open themselves to lawsuits on constitutional grounds if they do not provide "rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness" to voters and candidates." Also, a common response from state officials: they want the federal money to provide massive funding, but they don't want to be told how to spend it.

12/13/2000 "Many States Examine Election Laws " (AP)

"The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling didn't just scuttle the Florida recount - it also raised troubling questions for more than half the states, where laws rely on the same vague standards for recounts that left this election in crisis... States may have to go farther than just paying for up-to-date voting machines, observers said. The ruling's ramifications touch on the local control granted to manage elections... A group of secretaries of state from across the country already has begun work on reform. Some observers said such efforts must address the issues raised by the nation's top court. 'When you have something happen like this,' he said, 'it provides the force to break through inertia and make the changes we've needed to make for years.'"

12/12/2000 Commentary : Punch card problems are not just confined to Florida by Paul S. Degregorio (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"By examining ballots firsthand and looking at problems we had right here in St. Louis County, it became very clear to me that the punch card system is one that needs to be replaced. While much of the attention of the nation has been on problems found in the election system in Palm Beach County, we cannot overlook similar problems that occurred in St. Louis County on Nov. 7... It has become painfully obvious that it's time we stop using the punch card voting system and confusing ballots. It is certainly time we move to a system that is a lot less confusing and much more accurate."

12/11/2000 A 'modern' democracy that can't count votes (Los Angeles Times)

"Special Report: What happened in Florida is the rule and not the exception. A coast-to-coast study by The Times finds a shoddy system that can only be trusted when the election isn't close."

"State and local officials give priority to curbing crime, filling potholes and picking up trash. That often leaves elections across the country underfunded, badly managed, ill equipped and poorly staffed. Election workers are temporaries, pay is a pittance, training is brief and voting systems are frequently obsolete." (I believe the federal government should provide the mandate, the standards and much of the money to change this.)

This article is an excellent overview of the sad state of election affairs, and has many interesting stories such as this one: "Steven and Barbara Forrest and their 29-year-old son mailed in ballots from Bellevue [Washington] on election day. Several days later, two of the ballots were found on the island of Fyn, 100 miles from Copenhagen, in Denmark. Brian and Helle Kain of Odense, Denmark, discovered them in a large envelope containing navigational charts they had ordered from a company on Shaw Island, 50 miles north of Seattle".

Also, "In Oregon, a preliminary survey indicates that more than 36,000 of the state's 1.5 million voters may have mailed in ballots this year that were signed by someone else."

12/06/2000 "Gore Case Spotlights a Trend in Remote Voting" (The Washington Post)

Absentee voting has increased dramatically, to now account for about 15% of the votes nationwide. Absentee voting undermines the concept of the secret ballot, makes voting fraud easier, and delays election results. For example the last of California’s absentee ballots were not tallied until 28 days after the election!

Sent by VIP with comment: "Without taking sides regarding the trial in Florida today, both Republican and Democrat officials do agree that absentee ballot fraud has been an equal opportunity election crime for some time and the increased use by political campaigns of get out the vote drives utilizing absentee ballots is an area deserving attention. A good article by The Washington Post."

12/05/2000 "GOP questions voting of late registrants in city" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis Republican officials complain that many unregistered voters were allowed to vote improperly. The law says you can be put back on the rolls only if you were improperly removed. But some gave other reasons for not being registered, such as not knowing about the October 11th deadline. "They didn't appear in the voter rolls, they show up on the date of the election, they make a representation that clearly doesn't meet the legal standard and yet still are given a court order allowing them to vote."

12/04/2000 "Nursing homes fumble balloting" (The Miami Herald)

Sent by VIP with comment: "Absentee ballot irregularities and even fraud always take longer to percolate to the surface in any election. We are now beginning to see reports such as this one."

From the article: "The improper or questionable casting of absentee ballots at some nursing home facilities is part of a growing brew of irregularities involving absentee ballots during the Nov. 7 general election in Florida. Absentee ballots have always been fertile ground for voter fraud because of lax laws that allow virtually any adult to handle them. Tougher laws enacted after widespread absentee ballot fraud in the city of Miami's 1996 mayoral election were later blocked by the U.S. Justice Department on the ground that they made it more difficult for people of ethnic minorities and with disabilities to vote."

12/04/2000 "Bad Intent" (The New Republic)

An interesting opinion piece. The author explains why he believes that "a strict, clear, technical standard for a vote should be maintained at all costs" and what he believes would be the consequences of a Gore victory "through judicially imposed, loosely interpreted hand counts in South Florida".