Florida election overhaul a certainty

Select Task Force on Election Reform's report

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Saying Floridians are "humble enough to acknowledge our shortcomings and

principled enough to seek to correct them," Gov. Jeb Bush pledged that the

state would dedicate resources to revamp its voting system before the 2002

election cycle.

His remarks during his March 6 State of the State speech came after

a bipartisan election task force released recommendations for improving

statewide procedures. The 21-member, Bush-appointed group was formed in

late December after the state was criticized for its election procedures,

standards and machinery.

"But neither the history of the 2000 campaign nor your own history is

fully written, and the action you take this session will provide a lens

through which the election can be better judged," he told the state legislature.

Among the 35 recommendations in the Select Task Force on Election Reform's

78-page report are:

* Better voter education and sharing of best practices.

* Creation and publication of a voter's bill of rights and responsibilities.

* Better civic education.

* Recruitment of more qualified poll workers.

* Creation of nonpartisan election supervisor positions.

The task force also called for a uniform and standardized statewide

voting system by 2002 and said voters had lost confidence in the punch-card

ballot system.

The report compared different voting technologies, including the state-certified

optical reading system, a touch-screen system and Internet voting.

The report said the latter two systems were too costly or too "experimental"

to be viable and recommended that counties lease optical reading system

voting equipment until other options are more advanced. However, the report

also called for accelerated research and development of Internet voting

for overseas registered voters.

In the meantime, the state legislature should establish a matching grant

or loan program to help counties lease, replace or upgrade their certified

systems by 2002, according to the report. Leasing optical reading system

machines could cost up to $24 million for the 4,000 precincts; buying them

could cost up to $44 million.

The report also recommended that the state fund $3 million for the creation

of a comprehensive statewide online voter registration database.

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