Report suggests changes to voting

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Electronic voting machines should leave a paper trail of ballots cast, and the government should provide free photo identification to nondrivers to help check voting eligibility, a commission on election reform recommended.

The private commission, created to suggest ways to improve the electoral process, also favored four regional primaries to be held after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Also, states should develop registration systems that allow easy checks of voters from one state to another, according to the report by the bipartisan panel led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report, which makes 87 recommendations, ahead of its presentation today to President Bush.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform had to balance concerns about better access for voters and worries about preventing voter fraud.

“Americans are losing confidence in elections,” Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker wrote. “While we do not face a crisis today, we need to address the problems of our electoral system.”

Voter confidence dropped after the 2000 presidential election between Mr. Bush and Democrat Vice President Al Gore. The outcome was delayed for weeks because of problems with ballots in Florida.

Congress responded with the Help America Vote Act, signed into law in 2002, that allowed several billion dollars to be spent to help states update voting systems, streamline voter registration and provide voter and poll-worker education.

Yet in the 2004 race between Mr. Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, there were claims of voting problems, especially in Ohio. Complaints included limited access to voting machines, difficulties finding proper voting precincts and the accuracy of vote totals in precincts using electronic machines.

Among the commission’s recommendations are:

• Congress should pass a law to require voter-verifiable paper audit trails on all electronic voting machines.

• The presidential primary system should be reorganized into four regional primaries, held after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. A regional primary would take place each month from March to June.

• All “legitimate domestic and international election observers” should be granted unrestricted access to the election process, within the rules of the election.

• News organizations should voluntarily refrain from projecting any presidential election results in any state until all polls have closed in 48 states, with Alaska and Hawaii excluded.

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