As House Holds First Hearing on Election Reform, ACLU Says Nation's Election System is Broken

April 25, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – As the House of Representatives holds its first hearing on election reform after last year’s controversial presidential contest, the American Civil Liberties Union today said that President George W. Bush and the Republican majority in Congress are not doing enough on the urgent need for federal legislation to fix the nation’s broken election system.

“To borrow a basketball metaphor,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, “it looks like President Bush and the majority party are trying to run out the clock on election reform legislation.”

“Although the 2002 and 2004 elections may seem distant,” Anders added, “we are already very late if we want to get the reforms in place to achieve equality in the polling place.” Anders said that despite the urgency, President Bush did not include any funds for election reform in the budget he sent to Congress.

Today’s hearing before the House Administration Committee marks the first to be held by the House of Representatives since the disputed 2000 presidential election. Last week, Anders testified at a field hearing in Philadelphia that was called by the Special Committee on Election Reform of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives. The committee was appointed by Democratic House leaders to hold hearings across the country to examine irregularities in voting processes and equipment.

In addition to working for election reform in Congress, the ACLU has also already filed lawsuits in Georgia, Illinois, Florida and California challenging their unequal and defective voting systems and technology. In all four cases, the ACLU targets the discrepancies created by the use of the pre-scored punch card system in some areas and better systems in other areas.

However, the ACLU argues that effective federal legislation is the most certain and complete way to repair the nation’s broken election system. “Voters should not have to resort to the courts to ensure compliance with the “one person-one vote” rule,” added Anders. Instead, Congress should address the problem this year, by passing legislation that meets the three principal goals of election reform: uniformity, accuracy, and accessibility.

“The right to vote is the most fundamental right we as Americans have, the mainspring from which all other rights flow,” Anders said. “The ACLU has recommitted itself to the profoundly important goal of ensuring that what happened in the 2000 election does not ever happen again and we urge Congress to do the same.”

“In its post-election Bush v. Gore decision, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that every vote must be given equal weight under the Constitution,” asserted Anders. “We believe that Congress and the President must act now – during a time of unprecedented budget surpluses – to ensure that every person has the right to vote and that every vote is counted fairly.”

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