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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

UH-OH

The mixed bag of voting methods and systems in the 2006 general election varied across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and is not expected to change substantially for the 2008 general election.

So reveals the Government Accountability Office, pointing out that each local jurisdiction certifies the reliability of their systems, in some cases conducting post-election audits.

But, says the GAO, "Notwithstanding their system approval and testing efforts, most states, territories, and the District nevertheless have reported experiencing problems on Election Day. While these entities largely described the problems as isolated and having minimal impact, a few reported that they experienced problems that were more widespread and significant.

"However, the full scope of the problems that may have been experienced is not clear because states and others reported that local jurisdictions were generally not required to report problems."

CHAD DONATION

Speaking of unreliable voting machines, Inside the Beltway in recent days was honored to donate to the Newseum in Washington one of the actual Votomatic voting machines, complete with thousands of tiny chads, used in Palm Beach County, Fla., during the infamous 2000 presidential election.

"Property of Supervisor of Elections Palm Beach County Florida," the worn sticker on the outside of the contraption read.

We even turned over for public viewing three dozen worthless paper ballots from the November 7 election (just for fun, we punched a hole for Al Gore), as well as instructions for voting:

"Step 1: Using both hands, insert the ballot card all the way into the vote recorder. Step 2: Be sure the two slots in the end of your card fit down over the two red pins. Step 3: To vote, hold the voting instrument straight up. Punch straight down through the ballot card for the candidates or issues of your choice. Do not use pen or pencil. Step 4: Vote appropriate pages. Legal time limit for voting is 5 minutes.

"Important notice to voters: be sure all holes are cleanly punched. Pull off any partially punched 'chips' that might be hanging."

SNOW ON THE WATER

The memory of former White House spokesman Tony Snow will endure upon the choppy waters of the Potomac River.

The West Potomac High School Crew Boosters are currently holding weekly raffles to purchase a rowing shell to be christened the "Tony Snow," named in honor of the former presidential press secretary and longtime Washington journalist, who died in July at age 53.

And get this: last week's raffle winner was none other than Jay McConville, a neighbor, close friend and bandmate of Mr. Snow's.

All the more appropriate, considering Mr. Snow's rock 'n roll band, "Beats Working," played only one year ago at a West Potomac crew team benefit. Mr. Snow's daughter, Kendall, rows on the girls' varsity shell.

HAIR AND AIR

That was the bearded John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell hair and skin products fame enjoying a late dinner at Cafe Milano in Georgetown.

We're not sure how the current economic slowdown might be affecting Mr. DeJoria, but John Paul Mitchell Systems most recently reported annual salon retail sales, including its popular Tea Tree Collection, approaching $900 million.

Meanwhile, Paul Mitchell is going green, among other environmental initiatives encouraging its customers to recycle, steer clear of plastic bottled water, trade four wheels for two, and to plant trees to help clean the air and cool the planet: "Fact: One mature tree can make enough oxygen for four individuals."

ANOTHER SITUATION

Give CNN credit for coining a new phrase, "The Situation Room," referring to the network's popular 4 to 7 p.m. roundup of news hosted by Wolf Blitzer.

On the floor of the Senate over the weekend, we heard Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, plead: "We need a situation room. We need a situation room, not at CNN. We need an economic situation room at the White House. I ask the president while all this hubbub is going on at Capitol Hill — I ask the president to be commander in chief of the economy."

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.