LETTER TO THE EDITOR - Harkin: time to overhaul the voting system

Wednesday, December 27, 2000

Butterfly ballots, punch card machines and other outdated systems have disenfranchised too many Americans in this and other elections. That's why I have joined my colleague and good friend, Senator Arlen Spector, a Republican from Pennsylvania, to introduce a bipartisan bill to modernize voting procedures in Federal, State and local elections. Our bill establishes a bipartisan commission to study voting procedures across American and make recommendations about how we can improve them.

The commission would examine the latest innovations in voting technology, including systems that alert voters when they've voted for too many candidates or too few. And it would work to ensure that we're doing all we can to make our voting system accessible to the elderly, people with disabilities and others with special needs.

Clearly, when it comes to voting, local officials should have discretion in their precincts. But at the very least, we can establish minimum standards for accessibility and accuracy and clear guidelines for recounting votes in close elections. No system will be perfect, but we can certainly use the latest technology to ensure that our system is as fair, accurate and precise as possible.

There will always be conflicting views about what happened in Florida. But it is now time to move beyond partisan bickering and work together to bring our voting system into the 21st century.

Tom Harkin

U.S. Senator