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Flaws of 2000 vote still there in '04, study finds

Published June 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - Many of the voting and counting mishaps of the bizarre 2000 general election were not fixed four years later and brand-new problems arose, including a rash of fraudulent voter registrations in some areas, congressional investigators say.

A study of the 2004 election by the Government Accountability Office concludes that paper ballots continued to be used extensively, many polling places struggled to manage heavy early voting and new federal requirements for voter identification were applied unevenly by local officials across the country.

Altogether, 41 states were granted extra time to meet federal requirements to build statewide voter registration lists, meaning most such lists were not in place in 2004.

New problems cropped up in 2004. Ambitious get-out-the-vote drives swamped officials with the task of checking applications with their backs against registration deadlines. Incomplete addresses, fictional names and questionable signatures showed up.

The report estimates 5 percent of local jurisdictions handled voter registration applications with fraudulent names.

Places that adopted newer voting technology since 2000 were not necessarily making the best use of it. Investigators said performance measures "have not been systematically embraced" and they found shortcomings in security and testing procedures.

It came as little surprise that problems plaguing the nation's patchwork elections system remained in the first general election since a 2002 federal law placed new requirements on state and local officials and gave them more money to help with costs.

The changes got off to a slow start in part because members of the Election Assistance Commission, a new body set up to help state and local officials, were appointed by President Bush eight months behind schedule and were not at work until January 2004.

Widespread voting problems were exposed in 2000, the closest presidential election in history. The outcome was in limbo for weeks until the Supreme Court stopped a Florida recount, handing Bush victory based on a 537-vote margin in the state.

[Last modified June 9, 2006, 06:35:30]

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