This Calls for Reform!

Thirty Six Days of Uncertainty




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Election Night Coverage

The States
While the federal government proceeded very deliberately, states and localities considered and implemented a broad range of improvements to voting systems and procedures. 

In view of the Florida debacle, individual states undertook close examinations of their election systems.  In many, the governor or the secretary of state established a task force to review election procedures; typically these task forces held a number of hearings and issued reports.  Secretaries of state also took advantage of the propitious moment to advocate packages of legislative proposals.  Legislators weighed in; according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, by early May 2001 nearly 1,600 bills on election reform had been introduced in state legislatures around the country, and 130 had been signed into law.  Georgia, Florida, Indiana and Maryland were the first states to pass significant reform laws.  A look at activity in some of the states:

  • In Alabama, Gov. Don Siegelman established a 14-person Commission on Election Day Procedures by means of an executive order signed Nov. 20, 2000.  It met on Feb. 14, 2001 but that proved to be its only formal meeting; the commission never issued a report or recommendations.  (One Alabama observer suggested that the endeavor involved a bit of grandstanding by the governor).  At the Feb. 2001 meeting several committees were formed; one, the electronic voting committee, submitted a report to the governor and even prepared a draft bill.  The Secretary of State ended up addressing some of the problems through rulemaking.
  • In Arkansas, Act 767 of 2001 (approved March 14, 2001) created the Arkansas State Election Improvement Study Commission.  The ten-person Commission held its organizational meeting on Aug. 28, 2001.  It held four town hall meetings in late February and early March and released its final report and recommendations (PDF) on June 11, 2002.
  • In California, voters approved Proposition 41, the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2002 (Shelley-Hertzberg Act) on the March 5, 2002 primary ballot by a margin of 51.5% to 48.5%.  The measure will provide up to $200 million in matching funds to allow counties to replace outdated voting systems.  [Secretary of State's release on "Democracy Fund" bond measure].  Also, on Sept. 18, 2001 Secretary of State Bill Jones announced that two punch-card voting systems will be de-certified effective Jan. 1, 2006. However, on Feb. 13, 2002, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled (in Common Cause v. Jones, a suit filed by the ACLU in April 2001) that punch card systems must be replaced in time for the 2004 election.  More broadly, Jones advocated a "10-Point California Election Reform Plan." 
  • In Colorado, Secretary of State Donetta Davidson assembled a Blue Ribbon Election Task Force which held its first meeting on Jan. 19, 2001 and presented a set of recommendations to the General Assembly in early 2002.  A bill, HB02-1307, was introduced in the House on Jan. 31, 2002; Gov. Bill Owens signed the measure into law on June 7, 2002.
  • In Connecticut, the General Assembly approved in its June 2001 Special Session, and the Governor signed into law on July 2, a bill (P.A. No. 01-9) which, among its many provisions, established a a 16-person Commission to Study Voting Technology Alternatives.  Sen. John Fonfara and Rep. Jim O'Rourke co-chaired the Commission.  Among its other activities, the Commission mailed a 32-question survey to the 169 town clerks and 342 registrars of voters.
  • In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush announced establishment of a 21-person Select Task Force on Election Procedures, Standards and Technology on Dec. 14, 2000; the task force presented its findings in a report "Revitalizing Democracy in Florida" released on March 1, 2001. On May 4, 2001 the Florida legislature overwhelmingly passed sweeping election reform legislation; Gov. Jeb Bush signed the 103-page bill, SB1118, on May 9 at the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center.  The legislation provides $24 million to modernize voting equipment ($7,500 per precinct in small counties and $3,750 per precinct in large counties), $6 million for voter education and poll worker training and recruitment, and $2 million for development of a statewide voter registration database; it also provides for provisional ballots and standardizes recount procedures.
  • Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox issued a detailed report "The 2000 Election: A Wake-Up Call For Reform and Change" (Jan. 2001). #Following upon this report, SB213 was introduced, passed by overwhelming margins, and signed  into law by Gov. Roy Barnes on April 18, 2001; among its provisions, the law mandated uniform voting equipment for each county by July 2004, implemented a pilot project to test an electronic voting system, and created a 21st Century Voting Commission.  [One of Cox's recommendations that SB213 did not include was implementation of early voting.] The 18-member Commission, charged with evaluating election equipment, held its first meeting on May 16, 2001 and submitted its Report and Recommendations on Dec. 31, 2001.   # Gov. Barnes' FY2003 Budget Report (pages 20-22) recommended $54 million in bonds to establish a statewide uniform voting system and $3.4 for voter education and technical support.  The House and Senate passed the 2002 Supplemental Budget with the Governor's recommendation of $54 million untouched.   # Meanwhile, the Georgia Technology Authority, for the Secretary of State, issued a Request for Proposals for Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting equipment and optical scan voting equipment for absentee voting on Jan. 14, 2002; nine firms submitted proposals by the March 4, 2002 deadline.   # On May 3, 2002 Cox announced that Diebold Election Systems, Inc. had been awarded the $54 million contract to provide Georgia with 19,015 touch-screen voting units as well as 400 optical scan ballot readers for absentee voting.  It was, she noted, "the largest contract for election equipment ever in the history of the United States"
  • In Hawaii, legislators introduced H.B. No. 168, to establish a temporary task force to examine the state's election laws, on Jan. 18, 2001.  The Governor signed the measure into law, Act 139, on May 24, 2001.  The nine-member Elections Review Task Force held its first regular meeting on Dec. 10, 2001 and issued its report on May 2, 2002.
  • In Idaho, Secretary of State Pete T. Cenarrusa formed an Election Task Force in December 2000.  It has held occasional meetings; one piece of Task Force-sponsored legislation, H.B. 206, was adopted. In addition, the Secretary of State has used carry-over money from the 2001 Legislative Session to fund voter education and election official training.
  • In Illinois, the State Senate passed a resolution creating a Task Force on Integrity in Voting (SR153, adopted May 31, 2001) but then failed to act upon it.
  • In Indiana, on Feb. 1, 2001, Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy and Governor Frank O'Bannon announced a bipartisan Task Force on Election Integrity [first proposed on Dec. 14, 2000].  On May 11, 2001, Governor O'Bannon signed two election reform bills, one creating a statewide internet-based voter registration system (HEA 1510) and one establishing a voting system improvement fund (SEA 268). On Oct. 22, 2001, the Task Force presented its final report, "In the Best Interest of the Voter," (PDF) to the governor.  Task Force recommendations were reflected in legislation introduced in January 2002.  On March 14, 2002 the General Assembly passed the elections reform bill, and Governor O'Bannon signed HEA 1101 into law on March 26, 2002.
  • In Iowa, Secretary of State Chet Culver held a series of five public meetings, between Dec. 11, 2000 to Jan. 24, 2001 in the state's five congressional districts, to discuss Iowa elections practices; he released a report "Iowa's Election 2000: Facts, Findings, and Our Future" (PDF) on March 12.  Culver established several task forces, specifically a Legal Reform Task Force to examine recount provisions and how to define a legitimate vote, and a State Election Administrators Training task force.  He was also working to develop a centralized database of registered voters, and replace an outdated mainframe system. (Nov. 15, 2001 release >).
  • In May 2001, Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh appointed a 12-person task force (3 people from his office and 9 county officials) to assist in developing a set of election standards.  The group held five meetings starting in August.  It produced a 130-page binder "Kansas Election Standards" (May 9, 2002), which was distributed to election officers in all 105 counties.  Also in 2001, the Kansas Legislature passed several election reform measures. >
  • Kentucky Secretary of State John Y. Brown III announced a 10-point plan to improve Kentucky Elections on Jan. 4, 2001.
  • In Maine Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky spoke during Spring and Summer 2001 to various local groups on the theme of "Election Reform-A Local and National Perspective."  According to Julie Flynn in the Secretary of State's office,  Maine did not face many of the issues encountered in Florida, but some adjustments were made.  Chapter 415 of the Public Laws of Maine, passed in the First Regular Session of the 120th Legislature (June 2001), requires voter registrars and clerks (of whom there are about 520 in Maine) to attend an election law training session at least once every two years.  "Your Right to Vote in Maine" posters were distributed to polling sites in November 2001; this was codified into law in Chapter 516 (Second Regular Session).  Chapter 637 (Second Regular Session, April 2002), requires the Secretary of State to develop and implement a centralized voter registration system. 
  • Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening formed a Special Committee on Voting Systems and Procedures (Dec. 4, 2000) which released its report on March 16, 2001.  Immediately thereafter the Maryland General Assembly took up the issue,  and on May 15, 2001 Gov. Glendening signed House Bill 1457, which required the State Board of Elections to select and certify a uniform voting system and had a cost sharing program between the state and the counties, and Senate Bill 740, which addressed voter registration and provisional ballots.  The State Board of Elections issued its Request for Proposals on July 17, 2001 and announced, on Dec. 7, 2001, its selection of Global / Diebold Election Systems to provide 4,678 Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) units and an Optical Scan Absentee Voting System for four Maryland counties at a cost of $6.6 million to the state and $6.6 million to the counties.  The Board of Public Works approved the contract on Dec. 12, 2001; total estimated cost is $14.3 million over three years. Also, the Department of Legislative Services has produced a report, "Review of Election Administration in Maryland" (PDF) (Dec. 5, 2001). 
  • Michigan Secretary of State Candice S. Miller initially proposed (Dec. 14, 2000) establishing a blue ribbon committee to study voting systems; but later opted for a report.  She also sponsored a Voting Technology Fair on March 28.  The report, "Uniform Voting in Michigan: A report to the Legislature," was released on May 15, 2001.  Also, on Sept. 6, 2001, Miller launched an online "Citizens' Guide to Voting Systems."
  • In Minnesota, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer backed a set of reform bills including a rural voter equality bill, a recount accuracy bill, an anti-fraud bill and a military equal access bill.  Many of these were signed into law as part of the Omnibus State Government Appropriations Bill >.
  • Mississippi Secretary of State Eric Clark appointed a Select Task Force on Election Procedures and Technology in May 2001; the Task Force released its final report on Nov. 29, 2001.
  • In Missouri, Secretary of State Matt Blunt formed a Commission to Review Election Statutes.  Established on Jan. 8, 2001, the Commission held public hearings around the state and presented its report, "Making Every Vote Count," on Jan. 29.  In August 2001, citing a lack of progress on election reform in the General Assembly, Blunt issued some administrative rules affecting elections.  In mid-May 2002, the General Assembly passed a comprehensive election reform bill containing many of the recommendations of Blunt's report.
  • In Montana, Secretary of State Bob Brown presented a 10-point election reform plan on June 15, 2001.  Meanwhile, House Joint Resolution 8, passed by the Legislature in March 2001, created a legislative interim subcommittee to examine voting systems and procedures.  (Sec. Brown >).  The subcommittee produced final recommendations on April 25, 2002.  Sheri Heffelfinger, lead research analyst in the Office of Research & Policy Analysis of the Montana Legislative Services Division, stated, "This study focused exclusively on voting system technologies. The results, in short, are that the Subcommittee will recommend to the full committee, which will likely recommend to the full legislature in 2003, two bills: (1) ban punchcard ballot systems after Dec. 31, 2003. (2) general update and revision of current statutory language governing use of non-paper-based voting systems." [6 of the state's 56 counties use punchcard systems]  --The Legislature meets 90 days every two years; the next session starts in January 2003. 
  • In Nebraska, the Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, Sen. Douglas Kristensen, introduced LB 67, a bill to create a six-person task force to study the election process, on Jan. 4, 2001; LB 67 passed the Legislature and the governor signed it into law in February 2001.  The task force released its report, containing 26 recommendations, on February 25, 2002 (dated March 1, 2002).
  • In Nevada, Secretary of State Dean Heller has proposed a set of election reform goals.  These failed to make headway in the 2001 legislative session >.  In August 2001, Heller certified a touchscreen voting system >, and in early 2002, he conducted demonstrations of touchscreen voting systems >.
  • New York Gov. George Pataki signed an executive order creating a New York State Task Force on Election Modernization on Feb. 16, 2001.  The bipartisan seven-member task force issued an interim report on June 20.  It has conducted public hearings, roundtable discussions, and demonstrations of new voting technologies.  A final report, due by April 15, 2002, was released on June 18, 2002.  The 63-page report, "Voting in New York in the 21st Century" (PDF), contained 64 recommendations. 
  • Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell held an elections summit on Feb. 14, 2001.  The Ohio Elections Summit Report sets out election reform priorities. HB 5, introduced in January and signed by the Governor on May 29, 2001, created an eleven-member Election System Study Committee.  The Committee held its initial meeting on Aug. 28, 2001 and has issued a set of recommendations to the General Assembly.
  • In Oregon, Secretary of  State Bill Bradbury and the Oregon Association of County Clerks formed a task force which released a report (PDF) with its findings and recommendations on Feb. 6, 2001.
  • In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Ridge announced in his budget address on Feb. 6, 2001, that he would direct the Department of State to create a "Voting Modernization Task Force."  He further proposed spending $8.5 million to create an Integrated Voter Registration System.  Ridge signed the executive order creating the 20-person Voting Modernization Task Force on March 8; Gov. Mark Schweiker received its report (PDF) on Nov. 2, 2001.  Also on Feb. 6, 2001 the Pennsylvania Senate passed a resolution creating a bipartisan Joint Select Committee to Examine Election Issues.  In June 2001 this committee issued an interim report on a statewide voter registration system.  On Jan. 31, 2002, Gov. Mark Schweiker signed a into law a bill creating a statewide voter registration system.
  • In Rhode Island, Secretary of State Edward S. Inman, III and Board of Elections Chairman Roger Begin announced, on March 8, 2001, a joint commission to study Rhode Island's election laws and procedures.  The Commission to Study Rhode Island Election Procedures held a series of public hearings and released its report "Building a Better Democracy" on Jan. 23, 2002.
  • In South Carolina, Gov. Hodges signed Executive Order 2000-33, establishing an Election Process Task Force, on Dec. 20, 2000.  The 13-member task force issued its final report, containing 34 recommendations, on March 20, 2001.  Hannah K. Majewski, public information officer, SC State Election Commission, later commented that, "We already had laws in place that would prevent a situation similar to what happened in Florida but the Governor wanted to assure the voting public that we had restudied our laws so that we would not face what happened in Florida." 
  • In Texas, the 77th Session of the Texas Legislature (2001) passed nine new laws upgrading various aspects of election law, including voting systems (HB 1419, HB 1856, and HB 2336), pre-tabulation review of ballots (HB 1856), minority voting (HB 2923), incomplete and inaccurate voter registration lists (HB 2921, HB 3181), recounts (HB 1599), and information on polling place locations (HB 563, HB 2922).  Like many other states that have done studies and produced reports, the Secretary of State will study voting techologies and issue a report by Dec. 1, 2002 (HB 1419).  (Also, following the November 2000 election, then Secretary of State Henry Cuellar reviewed election issues to "determine if we had potential for similar problems in Texas.") 
  • Vermont Secretary of State Deborah L. Markowitz submitted a memo with proposals for improvements to the General Assembly (Jan. 12, 2001).
  • In Virginia, the General Assembly established (HJR 681/SJR 363) in February 2001 a Joint Subcommittee on Virginia's Election Process and Voting Technologies.  The Subcommittee held its first meeting on May 15, 2001.  Two task forces were established, one on Technology and Voting Equipment and one on Voter Registration and Election Day Processes.  The task forces presented draft recommendations and legislation on Oct. 12, 2001; the Subcommittee then took public comments before issuing its final recommendations on Nov. 26, 2001; many of these require legislation.  A final report to come out in May 2002 will include information on the actions taken by the 2002 General Assembly.
  • In Washington, on Jan. 31, 2001,Secretary of State Sam Reed announced legislative proposals "designed to keep Washington state 'ahead of the curve' in conducting accurate, secure and orderly elections."  A year later on Jan. 9, 2002, Reed announced another set of proposals, specifically introduction of a statewide voter registration database, penalties against tampering, and a phase out of punch-card voting systems by the year 2007.

  • In Wyoming, the Secretary of State's office worked with a select group of the County Clerk's Association to draft legislation regarding election reform.  H.B. 30, containing a passel of election code revisions, passed the 2002 Special Session of the Legislature.
See also: League of Women Voters page.

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action