WASHINGTON – Former President Jimmy Carter (search) says that despite changes designed to eliminate voting problems in Florida — where the disputed 2000 presidential election was decided by only a few hundred votes — conditions for a fair election in that state still don't exist.
"The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely," Carter wrote in an opinion piece published Monday in the Washington Post.
Touchscreen machines were introduced in Florida after the 2000 election, when punch-cards were responsible for delaying the outcome of the race between George Bush and Al Gore. Bush won the state by 537 votes, which gave him the presidency.
Carter, citing the experience of his Carter Center in monitoring international elections, said "some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida." Most significant, he said, were requirements that a nonpartisan electoral commission or official organize and conduct the electoral process and that voting procedures be uniform for all citizens.
He said Florida's top election official in 2000, Secretary of State Katherine Harris (search), was "highly partisan" and that Harris' successor, Glenda Hood, has shown "the same strong bias." He said Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, had done little to "correct these departures from principles of fair and equal treatment."
"With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida," Carter said.