September 19, 2005

Bipartisan panel recommends U.S. election changes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Electronic voting machines should
have paper trails to keep track of votes cast and all voters
should present photo IDs, a panel recommending ways to restore
confidence in the U.S. election system said on Monday.

The bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, led
by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State
James Baker, made 87 recommendations for strengthening the
integrity of a process shaken by voting controversies,
including the drawn-out 2000 recount saga in Florida.

"At a time when there is growing skepticism with our
electoral system, the commission believes that a bold new
approach is essential," the report said. Many of the
recommendations would require approval by Congress.

The call for paper verification of votes on electronic
machines drew praise from election reform advocates, but the
call for photo identification was criticized as an invasion of
privacy and something that would discourage some voters.

That recommendation would require all prospective voters by
the year 2010 to produce a photo ID card at the polling place
-- either a driver's license or, for those without driver's
licenses, an identification card issued by the state.

The commission called on states to make distribution of the
card simple and widespread.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington
legislative office, said the photo ID provision "will
disproportionately impact the poor and the elderly, who may not
have drivers' licenses or access to a location where they can
obtain IDs."


Carter said the 21-member commission intensely debated that
provision, but he believed a national uniform requirement was
better than piecemeal state voter identification laws.

"I personally had, at the beginning, some very serious
reservations about this issue," Carter said. "This will be, I
think, a move forward in getting more people to vote. It would
not restrict people from voting. It will be uniformly applied
throughout the country, and it will be nondiscriminatory."

The commission also recommended states, not local
jurisdictions, be responsible for the accuracy and quality of
voter lists and that state election agencies be nonpartisan.

"Every one of the recommendations in our report, whether
they are recommendations to the Congress or recommendations to
the states, are designed to improve confidence in our system of
federal elections. And there's plenty of room for improvement,"
Baker, who led President George W. Bush's team during the
Florida recount controversy, told reporters.

The 2004 election was also plagued by questions, involving
voter fraud and intimidation, long lines at polling places in
poor neighborhoods, the integrity of voter registration lists
and security against fraud for electronic voting machines.

Bush issued a statement praising the work of the
commission. "It is critical to maintain America's trust in our
election system, and I look forward to reviewing this report
and working with Congress on the recommendations," he said.

Carter said the panel hoped most of its recommendations
would be passed by the 2008 presidential election.