- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

Last week's party primaries proved that some people are determined to repeat the same political mistakes.
Florida, site of the greatest presidential-election debacle in modern American politics, showed us once again that it can't chew gum and run voting booths at the same time.
It isn't the state government's fault. Gov. Jeb Bush's administration and the legislature spent more than $100 million on new, computerized, touch-screen voting machines and poll-worker training. The problem occurred at the county level, where voting commissioners were in charge of the operation, as they were in the 2000 presidential election disaster.
When the sun came up on Election Day, local voting officials were apparently missing the square, hand-held devices called PEBs needed to power up the voting machines. Some officials, such as Broward Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Lori Nance Parrish, said she discovered the night before that the PEBs were missing in more than 50 polling places. Why didn't she discover this the day before, or the week before?
Similar problems occurred in a dozen other counties, six of them were among the seven counties that had the worst abuses and problems in the 2000 election. Some Democrats blamed Mr. Bush for the malfunctions, but the problems reportedly were all in heavily Democratic counties in South Florida where Democrats are largely in charge of the voting places. You would think that they, of all people, would have gone to even greater lengths to see that everything was working properly, so as not to risk a repeat of 2000.
There is always a learning curve when new computer systems are used for the first time, especially in election operations, where poll workers are volunteers who may not be fully trained in the new technology.
But, in this case, there was plenty of time to ensure that all the voting places were fully operational before the polls opened. Test runs of all of the voting machines should have been done the day before, with officials like Mrs. Parrish obligated to see that everything was in working order long before the voters arrived.
The best that can be said of Florida's latest election debacle is that there were apparently no complaints or confusion among voters about the design of the ballots on the screen, no imperceptibly punched holes or hanging chads. Surely, this is progress.
Then there was New Hampshire's Democratic gubernatorial primary. It did not get much notice outside the state, but Democratic voters chose state Sen. Mark Fernald to be their nominee. Mr. Fernald is largely known for only one thing: his relentless crusade to pass a state income tax, which is usually the kiss of death, politically speaking, in the "Live Free Or Die" state.
Republicans chose businessman Craig Benson, who is making the state's soft economy a major issue in his campaign and who is unalterably opposed to a state income tax.
New Hampshire has grown more Democratic in the past decade as voters have moved across the state line to escape high income tax rates in Massachusetts. But there is still no majority to enact an income tax at least not yet.
Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is running for the Senate, so the state's governorship is open and ripe for the GOP's picking. Put your money on Mr. Benson.
In the famous names department, the score last week was Kennedy 0, Dole 1.
This does not seem to be a good year for the Kennedys. Mark K. Shriver, whose uncle is Sen. Ted Kennedy and whom the entire Kennedy clan and their allies backed, lost his bid to challenge eight-term Republican Rep. Connie Morella of Maryland.
Despite the Kennedy connection and the huge fund-raising advantage his famous name gave him, Mr. Shriver was upset by Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a 12-year veteran of the state General Assembly who portrayed Mr. Shriver as a lightweight. His defeat may be an ominous sign for Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose gubernatorial bid got off to a shaky start and is now in a dead heat against Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich Jr.
But Elizabeth Dole, the former labor and transportation secretary and wife of the former Senate majority leader, showed she has more going for her than just another famous name. Overcoming Democratic "carpetbagger" charges in her native North Carolina with a lot of personal down-home campaigning, Mrs. Dole won 80 percent of the vote against six political rivals for the chance to run for the seat of Sen. Jesse Helms, who is retiring.
She will face investment banker Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff for President Clinton, who is being called "the poster boy for corporate irresponsibility," by Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Republican campaign committee. Mr. Clinton is not popular down there. The heavy money is on Mrs. Dole.
Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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