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Florida governor signs election reform bill

McCain seeks new voting system for rest of nation

Butterfly ballot
The infamous "butterfly ballot," used in Palm Beach County for the 2000 presidential election, caused controversy last fall  

May 9, 2001
Web posted at: 6:07 PM EDT (2207 GMT)


TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a sweeping package of election reforms Wednesday, six months after a controversy over hanging chads threw the 2000 presidential election into disarray.

Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore won the nation's popular vote in November by more than 300,000 ballots, but a tight race in Florida led to weeks of ballot recounts and legal battles over the state's 25 electoral votes.

The election's outcome hinged on Florida, because neither GOP candidate George W. Bush nor Gore had the required 270 electoral votes to be declared the winner.

Gov. Bush discusses election reform on CNN
Read the Bush v. Gore decision (FindLaw)
  • Election 2000: Examining the events, characters and legacy of the 2000 presidential election

  • Reviewing the Vote: Probing the courts major role in deciding the U.S. presidency
    From Holt, Rinehart and Winston: The Electoral College

    During manual recounts of thousands of disputed ballots, Republicans complained that elections officials in each of the state's 67 counties were setting their own standards, which differed from county to county.

    The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, citing a lack of uniform standards in its decision to refuse hand counting of ballots. The decision ended five weeks of uncertainty and made Bush president.

    "My hope is that people will see that we have resolved the problem," Jeb 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."

    Voting systems abandoned

    Under the new law, Florida 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.

    Several thousand ballots in Palm Beach County were mechanically rejected in November because machines could not detect punched votes in the cards.

    Senate panel
    "Large segments of the population were systematically shut out of the electoral process," said committee Chairman John McCain, right, seated next to Sen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina earlier this spring  

    Distinctions were made by those conducting a recount based on the condition of the "chad," or the small piece of paper punched out of a ballot card by voters exterting pressure using a blunt-tipped stylus.

    Some chads were found to be hanging from the card, indicating the voter's intention to cast his or her ballot for a certain candidate. Other chads were found to protrude from the card, or to have been slightly pierced, but were still attached to the ballot.

    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. The greatest uproar was 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 Democrats in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties said didn't leave enough time to complete hand recounts of ballots.

    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.

    Not just Florida

    After the 2000 election, there were widespread calls for election reform nationwide -- not just in Florida.

    Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, trying to revitalize stalled efforts on election reform in Congress this week, said Tuesday he plans to push for legislation that would help replace faulty voting machines with more reliable equipment.

    McCain said he aims to have the Senate Commerce Committee, which he heads, become the first to report out an election reform bill. It would then be sent to the full Senate for consideration in June.

    McCain co-sponsored a bill to develop voluntary standards for voting machines and provide federal matching funds for states and localities to buy new and upgrade old voting equipment.

    McCain said he estimates it would cost about $1 billion to replace the nation's voting machines.

    Reuters contributed to this report.


    popular vote:

    the vote that is actually cast by each voting citizen in an election


    electoral votes:

    the votes cast by an individual who actually votes for the president and vice president after the popular vote totals have been established in each state



    close examination



    pen-shaped pointing device used for entering information into a computer



    confirm formally as accurate



    to give new life or vigor

    Florida legislators approve election reform package
    May 4, 2001
    House effort to create bipartisan election panel fails
    March 29, 2001
    Carter: U.S. voting systems unacceptable
    March 27, 2001
    Carter: Elections conducted better in other countries than U.S.
    March 26, 2001
    Bush makes first presidential visit to Florida
    March 12, 2001
    Newspaper: Butterfly ballot cost Gore White House
    March 11, 2001
    Senators hear election system called antiquated
    March 7, 2001
    Panel begins looking into Florida election reform
    January 8, 2001
    How we got here: A Florida election controversy timeline
    December 11, 2000

    The Florida legislature
    Executive Office of Florida Governor Jeb Bush

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