February 26, 2001
As people who celebrate voting rights as the cornerstone of democracy worldwide, we must move to restore confidence in the integrity and fairness of our own election process. The Presidential election of 2000 has exposed numerous flaws in our country’s election procedures. Nationwide, polling mechanisms, the design of election ballots, voting rules, hours, and financial resources can vary widely from state to state and even from county to county. In jurisdictions using the outdated punch card system, ballots are spoiled or do not register a vote for one or more races at a significantly greater rate than is the case in jurisdictions using more modern equipment.
In too many precincts, local election officials lack funds to purchase modern voting equipment, hire adequate numbers of election workers, and handle increasingly complex ballots. Degree or lack of wealth from community to community can provide unfair advantage to some voters over others in determining how reliably votes are recorded and counted. In the recent election, there was a strong sense that the “one person, one vote” guarantee of our democratic system for which many have struggled, and some have died, may have been denied.
The JCPA therefore calls upon the new Administration and Congress to work together to study, evaluate, and provide financial assistance to state governments to implement improvements in the nations’ elections system. Similarly, state and local governments must also seek to improve the election process to insure that all votes are counted, and that all persons wishing to vote are given a meaningful opportunity to do so. Toward that end, the JCPA calls for:
- The elimination of punch card ballot systems and other outmoded equipment and replacement thereof with accurate, reliable, and verifiable modern equipment;
- Federal financial assistance to the states to assist with modernization of voting equipment;
- Consideration of any proposal which encourages and facilitates the exercise of franchise, including but not limited to extended polling hours, recruiting additional poll workers and enhanced training and education for poll workers, use of the Internet, and/or mail in ballots provided that appropriate protections can be implemented to minimize the risk of fraud;
- Actions by state officials to adopt uniform standards for ballots, voting procedures, registration and vote counting (JCPA applauds recent action by a number of Secretaries of State toward that end);
- Development of workable mechanisms for prompt resolution of voting-day, election-related problems;
- A review of federal legislation relating to presidential elections, particularly legislation setting deadlines for states to certify electors to qualify for “safe harbor” protection, and setting the date for electors to vote, in order to determine whether such laws remain appropriate or require modification given modern communication and travel capabilities.