The Facts on Florida; Elections Systems Ready for November

Article excerpt

Byline: Katherine Harris, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Having family living within minutes of Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains, Ga., I have long respected the former President as a man of honor and integrity.Regrettably, his recent partisan broadside regarding Florida's elections system did not reflect his reputation for probity and fairness.

Mr. Carter knows better than to treat Florida as a unique and isolated example of election difficulties in 2000.Seven states experienced worse rates of "undervotes" and "overvotes" than Florida (the rate for his home state of Georgia was 3.5 percent, as compared to Florida's 2.9 percent. The rate for Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, was 6 percent).Georgia's Democratic secretary of state, Cathy Cox, testified in March 2001 before the Senate Commerce Committee that, "if the presidential margin had been razor-thin in Georgia, and if our elections systems had undergone the same microscopic scrutiny that Florida endured, we would have fared no better.And perhaps we would have fared even worse."

Within months following the 2000 presidential election, I proposed landmark election-reform legislation, almost all of which the Florida legislature passed and Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law. This legislation outlawed punch cards, while appropriating $24 million for state-of-the-art voting systems and $6 million for voter education, and poll worker training.In 2002, I spearheaded Florida's adoption of historic civil-rights legislation that forcefully addressed the issues of voting machine and polling place accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia praised our 2001 reforms, commenting that "what Florida is doing is leading the way for the nation."Moreover, Stephen Ansolabehere and Charles Stewart III of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project found "clear evidence of improvement" in our state's elections as a direct result of our reforms, concluding that the new voting technology "substantially reduced" the number of undervotes and overvotes. They declared that "efforts to improve voting technology in Florida were not in vain."

Rather than recognizing these achievements, Mr. Carter repeats discredited myths about the 2000 presidential election in Florida without providing evidence to support his claims. He alleges that "several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities," when 1) the American tradition of ballot secrecy prevents us from knowing the race of a voter who cast a spoiled ballot, and 2)no shred of evidence exists to support the far-left accusation that "thousands of African Americans" were prevented from voting because of Florida's effort to remove felons and other ineligible voters from the registration rolls, which was required by 1998 legislation sponsored by two Democratic legislators and signed into law by Democratic Gov. …