Flexible Election Reform Urged

Article excerpt

State officials warned a Senate committee yesterday against imposing strict national standards in election-reform legislation, but they said voluntary guidelines would be helpful.

"No federal attempt to solve the very real problems of last fall's election should attempt to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on state and local governments," said Bill Bradbury, Oregon's secretary of state.

Oregon has established a successful vote-by-mail program that protects the integrity of the election process and increased voter turnout by 16 percent, Mr. Bradbury said.

"National standards must recognize and appreciate local differences," Mr. Bradbury said. "I would not seek to impose vote-by-mail on another state and will fight any federal effort to take it away from Oregonians."

Mr. Bradbury, along with Georgia State Secretary Cathy Cox and Kansas State Secretary Ron Thornburgh, appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday to address the need for election reform throughout the country.

The hearing was the first of several scheduled for the House and Senate to review electoral problems exposed in the 2000 presidential election in Florida and nationwide.

Georgia would have fared poorly if it had fallen under the same microscopic scrutiny as Florida, Miss Cox said.

"There but for the grace of God, go I," Miss Cox said of Florida's mishaps and voting-machine malfunctions.

Georgia experienced a 3.5 percent undervote - ballots that are voided because of a mistake or because no vote was cast - compared with 2.9 percent in Florida.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Commerce Committee, along with Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, are sponsoring legislation to establish a matching grant program for state and local agencies to purchase new and more accurate voting equipment and to implement voter education programs.

Mr. McCain agreed that local officials do not need intrusive guidelines from Washington. …