February 7, 2006

States slow to improve voting systems -report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Many states have fallen behind in
efforts to upgrade voting equipment and improve voter
registration and identification ahead of November's
congressional elections, a report issued on Tuesday said.

The report said nearly half of the states missed last
month's federal deadline to implement changes required by the
2002 Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed to help
restore confidence in the integrity of a process shaken by the
drawn-out 2000 recount saga in Florida.

The report, by the non-partisan Electionline.org project,
said reforms have stalled across the country for a variety of
reasons, including growing concerns about the reliability of
electronic voting machines and about the legality of voter ID

"The lack of progress in nearly half of the states throws
into doubt whether HAVA's goals can be achieved in time for the
November 2006 vote," said Doug Chapin, director of
Electionline.org, which analyzes election reform efforts around
the country.

The report said concern about electronic voting machines
and their susceptibility to tampering has steadily grown since
passage of the law, and 25 states now require either the use of
paper audit trails or that a ballot be cast only on paper.

In California, the report said, concerns about the new
e-voting machines have left some counties with warehouses of
machines considered unusable for elections.

The creation of statewide databases of registered voters
was the most costly and complex of the new law's requirements,
the report said, and more than 20 states have not complied.

The number of states requiring all voters to show
identification before voting has risen from 11 in 2000 to 22 in
2006, the report said, but political and legal battles over the
issue have slowed its spread.

Georgia and Indiana passed the most stringent rules,
requiring all voters to show a state or federal photo ID before
voting, the report said. Lawsuits have been filed to block both
laws and Georgia's law was struck down by a federal judge. An
appeal is pending.

The report said more than one-third of states still do not
have a machine available at each polling place for people with
disabilities, as required by the law.