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Jeb Bush signs Florida election reform into law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNN) -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday signed into law a sweeping package of election reforms six months after a controversy over hanging chads threw the presidential election into disarray.

"My hope is that people will see that we have resolved the problem," Bush told CNN . "Other states ought to look at this as a model because if there is another close election in another state, I guarantee you that they will not be able to withstand the incredibly scrutiny that occurred in Florida."

 TRANSCRIPT
Gov. Bush discusses election reform on CNN
 

Under the new law counties will be required to abandon voting systems that use punch cards, mechanical levers or paper ballots. Instead, by 2002, counties must have in place optical scanners, which require voters to fill in bubbles with a pencil. The pencil marks are then read by machines.

Counties also would be able to use more advanced technologies -- such as systems in which voters touch a computer screen to make their choices -- once such technologies are certified by the state, which could happen within a few months. Many of the state's county election supervisors say they would rather adopt the more advanced systems than spend money on optical scanners.

The state will provide counties with $32 million to buy the new equipment and beef up voter education and training of poll workers.

The new law also requires a uniform ballot design statewide and extends the date by which counties must certify their election results by four days.

In the 2000 presidential election, some voters complained that they cast their ballots incorrectly because of the ballot design, particularly in Palm Beach County, where names in the presidential race appeared across from each other on a "butterfly" ballot.

Secretary of State Katherine Harris also sparked controversy when she insisted that counties adhere to a seven-day window for certifying results, which didn't leave enough time to complete hand recounts of ballots as requested by Democrats in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Counties will now have 11 days to certify results, but the new law makes it clear the deadline is mandatory -- something which had been open to dispute under existing election rules.

The new law also creates uniform statewide standards for assessing ballots during manual recounts. During the dispute over the 2000 presidential election, Republicans complained that elections officials in each of the state's 67 counties were setting their own standards, which differed from county to county.

Equal protection questions raised by the lack of a uniform statewide standard were cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its December decision that finally brought the Florida election dispute to a conclusion, awarding the state's 25 electoral votes to GOP candidate George W. Bush.



RELATED STORIES:
Florida legislators approve election reform package (May 4, 2001)
Panel begins looking into Florida election reform (January 8, 2001)
Special report: Reviewing the Vote
CNN Election 2000

RELATED SITES:
The Florida Legislature
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

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