Senators Seek Funding to Modernize Voting Technology

Senators Seek Funding to Modernize Voting Technology

Democratic and Republican senators have introduced legislation designed to help states avoid a repeat of the legal and electoral debacle that has plagued this year's presidential election.

At a press conference Dec. 5, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced "The Election Reform Act of 2000," a bill that would create a new arm of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) designed to study the feasibility of new election technologies, such as Internet voting and computer-assisted voting.

The bill would create an Election Administration Commission at the FEC, envisioned as a combination of the FEC Office of Election Administration and the Department of Defense's Office of Voter Assistance. Four presidential appointees would staff it.

The legislation also calls for $250 million in matching grants for states and localities.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have also introduced legislation that would supply $100 million in matching grants to states and localities to help bring polling booths into the 20th ? and 21st ? century.

Deborah Phillips, chair of the Voting Integrity Project, said in light of the events of the past several weeks, the legislation would help avoid a rush to produce wrong-headed policy proposals or one-size-fits-all solutions.

"America has just received a shocking wake-up call on the vulnerability of elections to arbitrariness, irregularities, equipment malfunctions, voter disenfranchisement and even fraud," Phillips said. "In its years of mapping the fault lines in America's election system, the VIP has concluded that it is wise to defer to state and local jurisdictions in determining how their elections are to be conducted. Each city and county is in the best position to pick a voting system and rules that will serve its community."

Phillips said that even in times of crisis, as in Florida, when states and localities are more willing to spend taxpayer dollars to upgrade their voting booths, there is no guarantee that the best approach will be adopted.

"This is because America does not have a sufficient record of study on what works well or what is problematic when selecting an election system or devising protocols for administration," Phillips said.

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