New York Times Editorial

From: Arthur Keller <voting_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Tue Feb 22 2005 - 14:02:43 CST

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/22/opinion/22tues1.html?th

February 22, 2005
EDITORIAL

Tackling Election Reform

After a second consecutive presidential election marred by
significant flaws in the mechanics of voting, it's time for Congress
to take a hard look at fixing the system. Two Senate bills aim to do
that. A Republican-sponsored bill is narrowly tailored around making
electronic voting more reliable. A more ambitious bill, sponsored by
the Democrats, would take on a broad array of problems, from long
lines at the polls to odious maneuvers aimed at keeping people from
voting. Both bills would greatly improve the functioning of American
democracy.

  The Republican bill, introduced by Senator John Ensign of Nevada,
would focus on the most critical weakness in the system by requiring
that electronic voting machines produce voter-verifiable paper
records of the votes cast. The paper records would take precedence
when there were inconsistencies.

  Mr. Ensign's bill does not go as far as another paper-trail bill
that has been introduced in the House by Representative Rush Holt, a
New Jersey Democrat. That bill is preferable because it includes
other safeguards, like requiring an audit of some paper records as a
spot-check for the electronic totals. Still, Mr. Ensign's bill would
be a good step, and its Republican sponsorship and narrow focus could
give it real momentum in this Congress.

  The Democratic Senate bill, introduced last week by Senators Hillary
Clinton, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Frank Lautenberg, is now the
gold standard for election reform. It would require not only paper
records, but recounts in 2 percent of all polling places or
precincts, and restrictions on political activity by voting machine
manufacturers.

The bill would also take on lines at the polls - which stretched up
to 10 hours this year - by requiring standards for the minimum number
of voting machines per precinct. It would limit the states' ability
to throw out voter registration forms and provisional ballots on
technicalities, and prevent them from using onerous identification
requirements to turn away eligible voters. And it would strike a blow
against vote suppression by outlawing the use of deception - like
fliers giving the wrong date for a election - to keep people from
voting.

Some important big-picture reforms would also be made by that
Democratic Senate bill. It would make Election Day a holiday, freeing
up people to vote and serve as poll workers, and it would require
states to allow early voting. It would bar chief election officials,
including secretaries of state, from engaging in partisan politics.
And it would require states to restore the vote to felons who have
paid their debts to society; many of them are now barred from voting.

Election reform should not be a partisan issue. No member of Congress
should be satisfied with a system in which voters are forced to wait
in line for hours or to vote on unreliable machines. Americans from
across the political spectrum were moved to see Iraqi voters going to
the polls last month. Congress should take that idealism and direct
it toward making our own election system the best it can be.

-- 
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Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Sun Feb 27 17:17:08 2005

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