Voters may KO punch cards

To prevent any occurrence similar to Florida's election snafu last year,

Californians could vote next year on a $200 million bond measure to help

modernize voting machines in their state's 58 counties.

The California legislature approved the Voting Modernization Bond Act

of 2002 on Sept. 14, the last day of the 2001 legislative session. It's

unclear whether Gov. Gray Davis will sign the measure, which he must do

to place it before voters in the March 2002 primary election.

The act would help the state's counties purchase new voting machines,

contributing three state dollars for every dollar of county funds used.

It would also forbid counties to purchase punch-card ballot equipment, like

the kind used in Florida. According to the California secretary of state's

office, 33 counties use punch-card ballot systems.

If the legislation passes, counties would have to apply for funds to

a Voter Modernization Board consisting of five members—three appointed

by the governor and two by the secretary of state.

In a separate but related move, Secretary of State Bill Jones, whose

office is responsible for certifying new voting technologies, recently announced

that he would decertify the Votomatic and Pollstar punch-card voting systems

by January 2006, according to the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit,

nonpartisan voter education group. Those systems are used in nine California

counties, including Los Angeles.

The counties must replace the old systems with either touch-screen voting

computers or optical-scan ballots.

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