- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

The House election-reform bill is taking a detour through the Judiciary Committee, where Rep. John Conyers Jr. wants to try to broaden the bill to include mandates for how states must conduct elections.
The bill is designed in part to correct flaws uncovered in the 2000 elections. It has bipartisan support.
But Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat and the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said in a panel hearing yesterday that the bill falls short because it does not force localities to get rid of punch-card machines, doesn't require states to meet voting accessibility standards for the disabled, and allows elections officials to clean voter rolls something opponents fear will be used to disenfranchise voters in poor and minority areas.
"The bill does not fix the problems that were revealed around the nation and in Florida, but indeed codifies it," he said.
Sponsored by Reps. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, and Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, the bill passed the House Administration Committee unanimously in November. It also has the backing of House Republican leadership.
In a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week, House Majority Leader Dick Armey said there is still time for the full House to consider the bill this year.
A spokesman for Mr. Ney yesterday said the sponsors still hope to bring the bill to the floor for a vote next week, although the Judiciary Committee's schedule may throw that off track.
The bill creates a pot of money to help localities get rid of punch-card voting machines, though it doesn't force the end of the machines. It also creates another fund to pay for poll-worker training or other innovative programs at the state or local level.
Republicans, including committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, praised the provisions that allow registrars to clean voter rolls, arguing that fraud is just as big a threat as ballot access.
But rather than mandate a standard voting machine or methods that all poll workers must follow, the bill sets standards and provides incentives, but leaves it up to states to decide how to meet the requirements.
That's the key difference between what Mr. Conyers and his supporters want, and what the Ney-Hoyer supporters want.
One example is on provisional voting, which allows someone who claims to be registered but isn't on the rolls to vote on a substitute ballot and then be checked out to see if the voter was registered.
Mr. Conyers and others want a national standard for provisional voting to ensure that poll workers don't apply standards inconsistently, which they said usually works to the disadvantage of poor and minority areas.
But panelists said a standard might invalidate some states' existing methods, in some cases making voting more restrictive.
The Senate is working on its own election-reform bill. But a congressional aide said it wasn't until a meeting this Tuesday, when the four principal negotiators sat down, that an agreement began to take shape. The four Democratic Sens. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Republican Sens. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are scheduled to sit down again today.
The aide said the sides have agreed on many of the provisions Republicans sought to prevent vote fraud, on having a statewide voter registration system and on provisions expanding voting access for the disabled.

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