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Recommendations for reform: with numerous studies and reports, there is no dearth of advice on how to overhaul the country's election system.

For the past 12 months, experts and public officials have trained a giant microscope on every aspect of how elections are conducted in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . The 2000 U.S. presidential election forced the world's oldest constitutional democracy to examine closely the most fundamental act of its citizens--casting a ballot.

As a result, legislators have an ocean of reports and recommendations to guide them as they seek to guarantee that the 2000 election debacle never happens again. Legislative sessions this year will undoubtedly be awash Awash (ä`wäsh), river, E Ethiopia, rising near Addis Ababa and flowing c.500 mi (800 km) to a swampy lake near the Djibouti border. The Awash Valley is important agriculturally and has hydroelectric plants.  with election reform bills perhaps exceeding the more than 1,500 pieces of election-related legislation introduced in 2001.

National organizations, special legislative committees, federal agencies and numerous state and local election administrators have produced more than 50 reports containing hundreds of specific reform ideas. These groups met frequently, listened to testimony, gathered research and drafted reports containing guidelines guidelines, a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks.
 and recommendations on how to improve the election system. So there will be plenty of "grist for the mill" when legislators tackle the problem anew a·new  
1. Once more; again.

2. In a new and different way, form, or manner.

[Middle English : a, of (from Old English of; see of) + new
 this session. But will voters notice major changes when they cast ballots in the '02 elections? Arkansas Secretary of State Sharon Priest cautions that it could take time to implement the reforms called for by the numerous reports.

"Voters going to the polls in 2002 are going to expect sweeping changes, and those sweeping changes are not yet going to be in place," says Priest, the former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is a group comprised of the Secretaries of State of the states and territories of the United States. Currently, all Secretaries of State excluding Hawaii and Wisconsin (but including Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. . "There will be some changes, but even in 2003, legislators still will be working on reforms. In 2004, voters will begin to see noticeable differences."


What kinds of improvements can voters expect? And did the multitude of studies arrive at any common conclusions? Norman Ornstein, an elections expert with the American Enterprise Institute The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is a conservative think tank, founded in 1943. According to the institute its mission "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism — limited government,  for Public Policy Research in Washington D.C., points out that while there are many ideas for reform, the common thread is money. "There's no question that the key to all of this is lots of money," he says.

Ornstein notes that elections are often overlooked at budget time. "Local officials have to decide if they are going to allocate the money to fill potholes or expand garbage collection A software routine that searches memory for areas of inactive data and instructions in order to reclaim that space for the general memory pool (the heap). Operating systems may or may not provide this feature.  or for voting reforms. Election administration has been on the deferred maintenance list for too long, and the repairs could be expensive," he says.

All of the reform studies took different approaches, yet they settled on some common recommendations. Ornstein, who led a working group for the Constitution Project, has reviewed all the reports and says there is a broad and clear consensus in several areas.

"There needs to be money so that you have modern equipment and can maintain it. States must centralize cen·tral·ize  
v. cen·tral·ized, cen·tral·iz·ing, cen·tral·iz·es
1. To draw into or toward a center; consolidate.

 and update voter lists. There needs to be enough trained poll workers and machines to make sure that voting is not a 'root canal' experience for voters," he says.

Most of the reports encourage states to make provisional ballots A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there is some question in regards to a given voter's eligibility. A provisional ballot would be cast when:
  • The voter refuses to show a photo ID (in regions that require one)
 available to all voters, develop a statewide voter registration Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens to check in with some central registry before being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to get people to register is known as a voter registration drive. Centralized/compulsory vs.  database, improve voter education and poll worker training, and adopt clear definitions of what constitutes a vote. Several states moved quickly in these areas during 2001 sessions, and many discovered that their statutes are relatively sound and need only fine-tuning. Another repeated message from the national reports is that election administration should remain in the hands of state and local governments as the framers of the Constitution intended.


"Most areas of election conduct are purely state and locally regulated," says Utah House Speaker Martin Stephens Martin Eric Stephens (born 1976 [1]) is a former bartender from Towradgi, a suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales. He is known as a member of the Bali Nine, discovered with 3.3 kg of heroin concealed on his body at Denpasar airport during his first trip to Bali. , who co-chaired the NCSL NCSL National Conference of State Legislatures
NCSL National College for School Leadership
NCSL National Conference of Standards Laboratories
NCSL National Council of State Legislators
NCSL National Computer Systems Laboratory (NIST) 
 Election Reform Task Force. "Poll closings, ballot design and recount procedures are all matters that have historically been taken care of by state law and local regulation."

Ornstein agrees that a federal mandate approach would not work.

"The practical reality is that there will not be a swath of mandates. Given the long history of decentralization de·cen·tral·ize  
v. de·cen·tral·ized, de·cen·tral·iz·ing, de·cen·tral·iz·es
1. To distribute the administrative functions or powers of (a central authority) among several local authorities.
 and the widely different cultures between states and localities, you would screw it up if you overmandated," he says.

The worst thing, Stephens says, would be for Congress to pass a "one size fits all" solution. But some help in funding election reform would be more than welcome. Replacing outdated voting machines voting machine, instrument for recording and counting votes. The voting machine itself is generally positioned in a booth, often closed off by a curtain to assure secrecy for the voter.  will cost millions. While states are willing to step forward with some funding, an incentive grant program from Congress could guarantee that old voting technologies get relegated to the trash bin of history. Another expensive proposition could be developing a statewide voter database A voter database is a database containing information on voters for the purpose of assisting a political party or an individual politician in their Get out the vote (GOTV) efforts.  to prevent fraud and streamline the process for getting voters to their proper polling place on Election Day.


In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential race and the month-long saga in Florida, essentially every organization involved in elections vowed to study the problem and recommend solutions. In addition, many states launched task forces to scrutinize scru·ti·nize  
tr.v. scru·ti·nized, scru·ti·niz·ing, scru·ti·niz·es
To examine or observe with great care; inspect critically.

 the election process.

NCSL's Elections Reform Task Force, co-chaired by Speaker Stephens, North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
 Representative Dan Blue and Alfred Speer, clerk of the Louisiana House, came up with 36 specific recommendations for legislative action. They range from adopting clear recount provisions to placing resources into voter education and recruiting poll workers. Like many of the other studies, the NCSL report encourages states to adopt provisional balloting, which allows a voter to cast a ballot at the polling place even if there is a question about his or her eligibility. A review is done in the days following the election, and the ballot is counted if it turns out that the individual is qualified. This ensures that no voter is turned away from the polling place on Election Day. The report also calls on states to guarantee access to the secret ballot secret ballot
1. A type of voting in which each person's vote is kept secret, but the amassed votes of various groups are revealed publicly.

2. See Australian ballot.

Noun 1.
 for all voters regardless of any disability.

The National Commission on Federal Election Reform The United States presidential election, 2000 was one of the most controversial ever. Legal challenges were taken all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States before Al Gore conceded the election to President George W. Bush. , co-chaired by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, met in various presidential libraries across the country and offered 13 recommendations targeted at states and Congress. Its more controversial recommendation is to make Election Day a national holiday. It also calls for restoring the voting rights Voting rights

The right to vote on matters that are put to a vote of security holders. For example the right to vote for directors.

voting rights

The type of voting and the amount of control held by the owners of a class of stock.
 of convicted felons and having news organizations exercise restraint in predicting election outcomes.

The commission recommends that Congress go in 50/50 with states to add $300 million to $400 million to annual spending on election administration and to establish a new Election Administration Commission to create voting system Noun 1. voting system - a legal system for making democratic choices
electoral system

legal system - a system for interpreting and enforcing the laws
 standards and testing.

The Constitution Project, another bipartisan effort sponsored by Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, calls for unity among all levels of government to reform the election process. The group's stance is that Election Day voting at polling places is the best opportunity to foster confidence in the democratic process and protect against fraud. It did not reach consensus on alternative voting methods, like mail-in balloting, but suggests that states make in-depth evaluations before moving more toward these alternatives.

The Georgetown project also suggests that states review their election codes, reduce partisan influence on election administration and, in an effort to increase participation, consider reducing the frequency of elections through better coordination and consolidation.

Most elections are run by counties, a fact keenly recognized by the National Association of Counties and the National Association of County Recorders County Recorder may mean any of the following, in the context of a county:
  • a recorder of deeds
  • a recorder of wildlife
, Election Officials and Clerks. Their report firmly supports reforming the election process from within the present system rather than creating a new system or imposing nationwide procedures on state and local governments. Nationwide uniformity, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the association of counties, would be impractical im·prac·ti·cal  
1. Unwise to implement or maintain in practice: Refloating the sunken ship proved impractical because of the great expense.

, stifle innovation for the future and increase unintended consequences For the "Law of unintended consequences", see Unintended consequence

Unintended Consequences is a novel by author John Ross, first published in 1996 by Accurate Press.

The county report aims its recommendations specifically at each branch of government. Congress should offer one-time grants to help with the cost of upgrading registration and voting equipment, develop an ongoing funding program to share election costs and assist in the cost of mailing official election documents. The Federal Election Commission should have an increased role, and it needs to require broadcast media to run public service announcements to educate voters.

A list of recommendations for state and local governments concerns everything from registration to voter education and tracking statistics. But two are unique: restore voting rights to convicted felons in every state and clearly communicate those procedures. The report also urges states to institute ballot certification deadlines at least 60 days prior to Election Day. Unlike the Constitution Project, the county organizations recommend increasing the use of alternative voting methods in order to cut back on the need for poll workers.

In one of the most comprehensive studies of election technology, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project looked at voting equipment across the country. Made up of researchers from the California Institute of Technology California Institute of Technology, at Pasadena, Calif.; originally for men, became coeducational in 1970; founded 1891 as Throop Polytechnic Institute; called Throop College of Technology, 1913–20.  and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at Cambridge; coeducational; chartered 1861, opened 1865 in Boston, moved 1916. It has long been recognized as an outstanding technological institute and its Sloan School of Management has notable programs in business, , the group measured error rates for each type of voting system. It found that between 4 million and 6 million votes were lost in the 2000 election. To ensure that every vote counts, project researchers recommend that punch cards A storage medium made of thin cardboard stock that holds data as patterns of punched holes. Each of the 80 or 96 columns holds one character. The holes are punched by a keypunch machine or card punch peripheral and are fed into the computer by a card reader.  and lever machines be upgraded to optical scanners See scanner. . In addition, they believe states should improve voter registration by improving database management, linking registration databases and polling places, and using provisional ballots.

The Caltech/MIT report urges the federal government to fulfill a much needed role as the collector of data on voting equipment and systems. It suggests that the feds establish a national lab or program to foster development and testing of voting systems and a national program to field test all equipment and ballot formats.

Our election system is not completely broken, just in need of repairs, argues the National Task Force on Election Reform sponsored by the Election Center, a bipartisan group of state and local officials with vast experience in running elections. A complete overhaul, it believes, is not necessary and would actually undermine years of work.

"When one looks at America's election system, one cannot help but be impressed with how well it works, given the enormous complexity, the lack of resources and the extremely high expectations," its report states.

The state and local officials make 80 specific recommendations, from restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have completed their sentence to a proposal that all states have a statewide central voter file A voter file is a list of all registered voters in an area. In the US most states compile this list under the organization responsible for elections. It is generally available to candidates for office and political organizations for a fee.  or registry.

Though the Election Center report advocates that state and local governments remain election administrators, it also recommends that the federal government take a more active role in developing standards for conducting elections. These include development and maintenance of vote counting system There exist various methods through which the ballots cast at an election may be counted, prior to applying a voting system to obtain one or more winners. Manual counting
Manual counting requires a physical ballot that visually represents voter intent.
 standards and operational standards and guidelines.


The 2002 primaries are just around the corner. As Americans return to the polls for the first elections for federal offices after the historic presidential race of 2000, states can expect intense media scrutiny on the election process. Voters in a few states like Florida will notice one obvious difference: Their old punch card machines will be gone. But many reforms will be invisible, such as better laws on voter intent and a better communications infrastructure for election officials to use to resolve disputes more efficiently.

Many states have yet to act, and comprehensive reforms will not be in place for several years. The 2002 legislative sessions will include numerous bills to improve the election process, and the many reports offer guidance to lawmakers reluctant to reinvent re·in·vent  
tr.v. re·in·vent·ed, re·in·vent·ing, re·in·vents
1. To make over completely: "She reinvented Indian cooking to fit a Western kitchen and a Western larder" 
 the proverbial pro·ver·bi·al  
1. Of the nature of a proverb.

2. Expressed in a proverb.

3. Widely referred to, as if the subject of a proverb; famous.
 wheel. A careful examination of the state election system as a whole gives legislatures the opportunity to make some long overdue OVERDUE. A bill, note, bond or other contract, for the payment of money at a particular day, when not paid upon the day, is overdue.
     2. The indorsement of a note or bill overdue, is equivalent to drawing a new bill payable at sight. 2 Conn. 419; 18 Pick.

"Legislators and lawmakers should take a more deliberate look at all the aspects of elections, the whole process, so that they can come up with something that's comprehensive and not just a scatter-brained approach," says Priest of Arkansas.

Tim Storey and Kate Rooney track election reforms for NCSL.

State legislatures went over their election laws with a fine-toothed
comb last session, looking for wea spots and developing solutions.
Reforming election laws is a complex job, and while more than 1,790
bills were introduced, only 266 passed. Some 433 are still pending as
sessions start up again this month.

ISSUE                            STATES THAT ENACTED NEW LAWS

New voting equipment.            Arizona, California, (*) Florida,
                                  Georgia, Indiana, Maryland,

Ban on punch cards.              Florida, Indiana, North Carolina,

Registration--new or improved    Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Oregon,
 centralized voter database.      South Dakota

Registration--improved list      Georgia, Indina, Kansas, Louisiana,
 maintenance and purging          Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota,
 procedures                       Texas, Virginia, Washington

Voter intent--does a hanging     California, Florida, Missouri, (**)
 chad count as a vote? How        Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia
 about a pregnant chad?

Recount procedures.              Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Nevada,
                                  North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas,
                                  Virginia, Washington

Absentee voting procedures.      California, Florida, Maryland,
                                  Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey,
                                  North Carolina, North Dakota,
                                  Ohio, Rhode Island, South
                                  Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia,
                                  Washington, West Virginia

Provisional ballots.             Florida, Maryland, Vermont

Poll workers--increased pay,     Alabama, Florida, Indiana,
 training and recruitment.        Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico,
                                  North Carolina, South Carolina,

Polling place and voting         Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah
 machine accessibility for
 elderly and disabled voters.

Voter education--the core        California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana,
 issues are where and how to      Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada,
 register and vote.               New Jersey, North Carolina, North
                                  Dakota, South Dakota, Texas

Task forces, study commissions,  Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,
 interim committees on election   Kentucky, Maryland, Montana,
 reform.                          Nebraska, New Hampshire, North
                                  Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania,
                                  Texas, Virginia

(*)Requires voter approval in March 2002 election.

(**)Administrative rule.


Even before the occupant occupant n. 1) someone living in a residence or using premises, as a tenant or owner. 2) a person who takes possession of real property or a thing which has no known owner, intending to gain ownership. (See: occupancy)  of the White House had been determined, NCSL President Jim Costa James Manuel "Jim" Costa (born April 13 1952) is a Democratic politician from the U.S. state of California. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in November 2004 to represent the 20th Congressional District of California. , state senator Noun 1. state senator - a member of a state senate
senator - a member of a senate
 from California, was marshaling NCSL's resources to study election reform. Within a month, he and NCSL Staff Chair Diane Bolender of Iowa, had established the NCSL Elections Reform Task Force and charged it with three goals: helping restore confidence in the system, working with the federal government and providing states with recommendations for improving the election process.

Chaired by North Carolina Representative Dan Blue, Utah Speaker of the House Marty Stephens and Louisiana Clerk of the House Clerk of the House can refer to positions in a number of countries:
  • Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
  • Clerk of the Australian House of Representatives
  • Clerk of the House of Commons
 Alfred Speer, the bipartisan group of 30 legislators and legislative staff had vast experience in the election field. The group decided that NCSL's lobbying efforts at the federal level should stress that elections must remain in the hands of state and local officials and that Congress must be careful with any mandated changes. Its recommendations to states are based on the premise that legislatures will review their elections codes and make changes based on their own culture and circumstances.

Like many of the other national reports, the NCSL report supports offering provisional ballots to anyone requesting to vote, developing statewide voter registration databases, and encouraging legislatures to find money to support voter education and poll worker training. It calls on states to guarantee that all polling places are accessible to all Americans regardless of disability. The report, which is on the NCSL Web site at, contains 50 state charts showing various election practices throughout the country and the group's specific recommendations.


The sheer volume of advice on election reform is almost over-whelming. Recognizing the need to collect and organize the huge volume of material available from all the reports and studies of the past year, the Pew PEW. A seat in a church separated from all others, with a convenient space to stand therein.
     2. It is an incorporeal interest in the real property. And, although a man has the exclusive right to it, yet, it seems, he cannot maintain trespass against a person
 Charitable Trust The arrangement by which real or Personal Property given by one person is held by another to be used for the benefit of a class of persons or the general public.  created the Election Reform Information Project. It serves as a clearinghouse for information, data and analysis on election reform. Project Director Doug Chapin says the group will add "perspective to this information in order to give policymakers, the media and concerned citizens the latest information."

The project's Web site,, is a one-stop-shopping source with links to all of the major election reform reports, along with daily news about developments.
COPYRIGHT 2002 National Conference of State Legislatures
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:election reform
Author:Storey, Tim
Publication:State Legislatures
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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