WASHINGTON – Ohio met the federally mandated January election reform deadline,according to a new report,but the authors say they are still worried about problem-free voting in 2006.
Ohio completed a statewide voter registration database,a federally funded project costing almost $6 million,but must still provide handicapped-accessible voting machines in all precincts by May's primary election.
Since the Help America Vote Act of 2002,a law inspired by the 2000 election fiasco in Florida,most states have made changes to voting registration lists,provisional ballots and voter identification requirements,said Doug Chapin,director of electionline.org.
The non-partisan,non-advocacy Web site released a report Tuesday analyzing election reform in each state from 2000 to 2006.
Despite strides in reform by most states,Chapin said problems could persist.
“The possibilities for error and the willingness of people to challenge those errors are growing every day,and that could have a tremendous impact on elections in 2006 and beyond,” Chapin said.
“Change usually breeds uncertainty,and in the field of elections,uncertainty is always fertile ground for error,” he said. “The ingredients for election controversy in 2006 persist.”
Ohio has made several changes to the voting process,including the passage of a bill last week requiring voters to show identification at the polling place. Identification can be a photo ID or a government document displaying the voter's name and address. Previously,voters needed only to match their signatures.
Forty-one of Ohio's 88 counties have replaced punch-card voting equipment with optical scan and electronic machines with paper trails. Many functioned well in last year's statewide elections. The rest will be replaced soon,said a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
Focus has shifted to Ohio because of the problematic 2004 election,when there were questions about fraud and whether punch-card machines had worked properly,delaying results. The problems spurred several lawsuits against the state,but Carlo LoParo,the spokesman,said he is not anticipating any problems in 2006.
LoParo said the biggest concern was adding voter verified paper audit trails,or VVPATs,to voting machines.
“We've all ready gone through an election where our VVPATs were tested and it worked well,” he said.
He said Ohio had been able to meet all HAVA mandates. Handicapped-accessible voting machines,another HAVA mandate,will be available at all polling places by the May primaries,he said.
To see the full text of the report,go to: http://www.electionline.org