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Commission told of problems in U.S. election process


By JUAN A. LOZANO  / Associated Press

Experts told a bipartisan federal commission Thursday that problems as simple as not knowing where to vote remain major stumbling blocks in U.S. elections.

The Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform heard from various government officials and scholars on how to improve the nation's federal election system. The group is co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and ex-Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

Carter is a Democrat whose Carter Center in Atlanta has monitored dozens of elections around the world. Baker is a Republican who was the top U.S. diplomat under former President Bush.

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said concerns need to be resolved about the security of electronic voting machines and whether a paper record of votes should be provided. States should also coordinate voter registration lists to make registration easier to confirm.

"We need a bold call to action and a bold call for reform," he said. "We have a problem with voter confidence in the system right now."

Voter confidence ped after the 2000 presidential election, the outcome of which was delayed for weeks because of problems with ballots in Florida. There were also claims of voting irregularities in Ohio after last year's presidential election.

Some problems were addressed in the Help America Vote Act that Congress passed in 2002 and was signed into law by President Bush.

That measure called for modernizing voter registration systems, updating voter machines and improving voter education and poll worker training. Some states are behind schedule in meeting some of these goals.

Ken Smukler, president of InfoVoter Technologies, which helped create a national hot line for voter questions and complaints, said issues related to voter registration ? including giving voters easy access to information on where and how to cast their ballots ? remain a major problem.

"On Election Day, it is easier to find a vegetarian or Chinese restaurant than a voting location," he said.

The commission is set to issue its final recommendations in September. Other members of the privately funded panel include former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and Robert Mosbacher, former secretary of commerce.

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