Not Another Florida, Please

The way votes are cast and counted and the way voters are educated to exercise this basic right have been scrutinized and debated ever since the Florida election debacle last fall. But reform to help prevent another national crisis has been slow. Here's the progress so far:

* Of 1,500 election reform bills at the state and local level, some 100 have passed in 20 states.

* Georgia's governor signed an election reform package that requires touch-screen voting in the state by the 2004 presidential election.

* Recently, the Florida Legislature voted to do away with its antiquated punch-card ballot system.

* National electoral reform commissions, one led by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, are in the middle of their work to come up with recommendations.

States, not the federal government, have the primary responsibility for managing the voting process. Dedicating tax revenue to reforms - such as more accurate voting machines and better trained poll workers - will not be easy, but it is necessary. Studies show that more than 2 million votes were not counted in the last election, out of some 100 million cast.

Even states that initially considered several reform bills have been slow getting off the dime, and are mired in partisan bickering. President Bush can provide leadership by using his bully pulpit to push reform at the state and local level.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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