- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

Republicans won a vote to sustain their filibuster on election reform yesterday and Democrats then signaled they are willing to give in and accept Republicans' anti-fraud provisions in the bill.
The vote, strongly along party lines, was 49-39 far short of the 60 votes needed to end the impasse. There will be another vote on Monday evening, and by then an agreement could be worked out.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he will accept Republicans' demand that voters who register by mail show some identification before voting the first time, as long as Republicans exempt mail-in voting programs in Washington and Oregon.
"My belief is that the bill is more important than any specific provisions," Mr. Schumer said. And Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said they will try to change the bill in conference with the House, which passed a version last year.
Republicans were reviewing the proposal and had concerns about specific wording, but were optimistic.
"There's a much greater possibility we'll be able to get back to the original agreement," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, who has spearheaded his party's efforts, along with Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
Mr. Schumer, though, said he fears Republicans may still reject the compromise.
"My worry is they never really wanted a bill, and that Senator McConnell and Senator Bond and others are getting a tremendous pounding in the Republican caucus because this will enfranchise lots of people, and every time we seem to come to some agreement they move the goalpost back," Mr. Schumer said.
Republicans say they want a bill but insist it also combat fraud.
"Republicans have no problem with a wider vote franchise as long as it doesn't include dead people and dogs. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is," said Ernie Blazar, spokesman for Mr. Bond, yesterday.
The underlying bill would authorize Congress to spend $3.5 billion to help states update voting machines and pay for training and running elections. It also would require states to meet certain requirements, like making polling places accessible to the disabled and allowing provisional voting for those who show up at the polls but find their names aren't on the voting roll.
The bill required first-time voters who had registered by mail to show identification either a photo I.D. or a printed form such as a bank statement. But Mr. Schumer offered an amendment to strip out the I.D. requirement and instead let a voter's signature suffice.
Republicans said that amendment broke an agreement they had on the bill and they began a filibuster. Democrats, though, said the bill's primary goal is to expand voting.
"The lesson of Florida was not that the outcome might have changed because of voter fraud. The lesson of Florida was that the outcome might have changed because people who came to vote legitimately did not have their votes counted," Mr. Schumer said.
Groups representing both blacks and Hispanics have supported Democrats, arguing that some local poll workers dicriminate in applying ID laws by asking for several forms of ID from minorities.
"It's that kind of harassment at the polls, because of the discretion left to local officials," said Marisa Demeo, a lawyer at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
She said by opposing the Schumer amendment Republicans proved they didn't have Hispanic voters' interests in mind.

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