Bye-Bye Butterfly Ballots

That the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed an election-reform bill is a sure sign that memories of the 2000 Florida voting miscount have not faded.

Now a similar bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate ought to be passed to help perfect the 2004 elections. (It's too late for the federal government to influence balloting procedures for the 2002 elections.)

The House bill does take into account that states and local bodies are responsible for voting procedures, since most elections are not federal. But the bill does require changes in the more egregious election procedures. It would give voters the opportunity to correct mistakes made at the polls. And it would allow "provisional" voting - giving voters the opportunity to cast a ballot even if their registration is questioned, and then having the vote count once the registration is verified.

The bill also provides $2.25 billion (which translates to modest subsidies at the individual precinct level) to help upgrade voting systems, increase voter education, train poll workers, and provide better access for individuals with disabilities.

States are wise to work toward eliminating punch-card ballots altogether; $400 million of federal taxpayer money would go toward obtaining better equipment.

While states still are the best laboratories for new voting methods, a little impetus from Washington should help.

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