- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Senate Republicans voted yesterday to uphold their filibuster of the election-reform bill, but Republican and Democratic leaders on the legislation said a deal is close on the anti-fraud provisions that have stalled the measure.
"We are very close to passing an election-reform bill that I think members on both sides can feel good about," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who along with Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, held a joint news conference with Democratic leaders, even as the vote was concluding, to announce that a deal is close.
The vote to end the filibuster failed, with Democrats garnering only 51 votes, including one Republican, Sen. Gordon H. Smith of Oregon. Sixty votes are needed to end debate; 44 Republicans voted to continue the filibuster.
For now, the Senate will set the bill aside and move on to consider energy legislation, but Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said he hoped a deal could be ratified by the end of the week.
"We're down to an issue or two maybe just one," he said.
Having now lasted almost a week, the stalemate goes to the heart of what each party wanted from the bill. Republicans insisted that the bill require voters who registered by mail to show either a photo identification or a preprinted form like a bank statement the first time they vote.
Republicans said the provision would cut down on fraud, but Democrats said it would keep those who lack acceptable I.D. from voting and that it would hurt mail-in voting programs in Oregon and Washington state.
Democrats proposed an amendment to strip out the I.D. requirement and instead say that a signature was good enough and they had the votes to win the amendment. But Republicans, claiming the amendment broke a deal on the bill, began a filibuster.
Yesterday, before the vote on the filibuster, Democrats withdrew their amendment in order to break the impasse.
"While this amendment has a great deal of merit, the bill is more important than the amendment," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
The two sides have agreed to keep the identification requirement, but they will make states pay for I.D. cards for those who don't have acceptable I.D. and allow provisional voting for those who forget their identification.
A remaining sticking point is over what happens in Oregon and Washington. Because Oregon votes entirely by mail and in Washington more than half the voters mail their ballots in, senators from those states felt their programs would be hurt by the requirement.
They asked that those states be exempt from the requirement, but Republicans disagreed.
"We don't think they should be completely out," Mr. McConnell said.
There are also a handful of unresolved amendments on other issues, such as whether to allow registrars to clean up the voting rolls and whether television stations can be forced to charge the cheapest rate for campaign commercials.
The underlying bill would authorize $3.5 billion to be sent to states to make elections run more smoothly by improving their voting machines and paying for poll-worker training or elections mailings.
But the bill also requires states to meet standards for conducting elections, including maintaining a statewide registration list so poll workers can ascertain if a person is registered and allowing provisional voting for those who show up but whose names don't appear on the rolls.
Last year, the House passed a similar bill that authorized $2.65 billion. It would also make the money available to the states for improving the way elections are conducted, and would set minimum standards, while allowing states more flexibility in meeting those goals. The House bill did not have the same anti-fraud provisions that the Senate bill has.


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