WASHINGTON – Civil rights groups warned Wednesday that the same problems with voter access and ballot confusion that plagued the 2000 election will happen again in November unless election officials act now.
"We believe that the 2004 election is in danger. Many of the problems that we all saw in the 2000 election still have not been fully solved," said Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters. "Election reform measures set by Congress in the Help America Vote Act (search) ... are not fully implemented."
Maxwell and officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (search) and other groups held a news conference to release a list of what they called the top five risks to voters in 2004.
— Voter registration problems
— Voters being wrongly purged from rolls
— Improper implementation of a new requirement that newly registered voters show ID on Election Day if the state hasn't verified their identity
— Difficulties with voting machines and ballots
— Potential failure to count newly required provisional ballots.
They proposed better education for voters and poll workers, notifying people before removing them from voter lists and setting statewide standards for counting provisional ballots, which are supposed to be available for people who think they're eligible to vote but don't find their name listed at a polling place.
The officials played down potential problems with electronic voting machines, as some election officials cast doubt on their reliability and security. Last month, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley prohibited four counties from using such machines in November and said 10 others could use them only if they met strict standards.
The American Association of People with Disabilities (search) has sued Shelley to get disabled-accessible electronic voting machines in place faster. Jim Dickson, an association vice president, and other participants noted that some 74 percent of voters will use the same kinds of machines in 2004 as in 2000 — even though the 2002 Help America Vote Act earmarked money for states to replace punchcard and lever machines. Much of the money has yet to be distributed.