Senate boosts voting alternatives

Spurred by complaints about outdated and faulty voting machines in this election, a bipartisan Senate bill was unveiled Dec. 5 to fund a federal study about alternative voting methods and create a grant program for states to upgrade their systems.

"This is a particularly timely issue because of the problems we've seen in the 2000 presidential elections," said Erik Hotmire, press secretary for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who along with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sponsoring the Voting Study and Improvement Act of 2000 (S. 3273)

Under the bill, the Federal Election Commission would receive $10 million to analyze current methods and explore new ideas such as computerized voting terminals, mail voting, Internet voting, redesigned ballots and expanded voting periods.

The bill gives the FEC until Dec. 31, 2001, to complete the study and make recommendations in time for states to implement new voting systems for the 2002 mid-term elections.

"That is the hope. Obviously, we have to see how quickly this passes Congress," Hotmire said.

The bill also directs the FEC to create a $250 million matching grant program for states to upgrade their systems. States would have to submit applications to the FEC. The program is voluntary.

Hotmire was unclear whether similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives. If the bill fails to pass in this Congress, it will be re-introduced in the 107th Congress, said Hotmire, who added that it has broad bipartisan support among federal, state and local officials.

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