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Monday, 8 January, 2001, 12:14 GMT
US voting under scrutiny
Vote counters
Many of the votes had to be counted by hand
By Malcolm Brabant in Miami

A special task force given the job of reforming Florida's much-pilloried election system is due to hold its first session in the state capital, Tallahassee on Monday.

The state was ridiculed worldwide after America's presidential election because of confusion caused by its butterfly ballots and punch card voting systems that caused a new word to enter the English language - the 'chad'.

Jeb Bush
The president's brother has chosen the team
The task-force, chosen by Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, the brother of the new president, has just two months to come up with a new system that will ensure that never again will the state suffer a repeat of last year's humiliation.

It is certain the group will recommend the retirement of the 1950s' punch-card system.

This was wildly inaccurate and, in some cases, had an error rate of 5%.

The end of the punch card should also ensure the end of its most famous by-products, the hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads.

Keeping it simple

Some election supervisors say there is no system on the market that is foolproof, but the task force will be aiming to select technology that is 99.9% perfect.

It is, however, highly unlikely that they will recommend something as simple as writing a cross on a piece of paper, the system that seems to work in the UK.

They will also want to improve the accuracy of voting lists.

One recurring complaint was that supervisors in polling stations were unable to contact election headquarters to verify the identity of potential voters.

This frequently occurred in predominantly black districts.

Colour discrimination

The task force is supposed to be limited to examining election procedures, standards and technology.

Some members want to expand the brief to include an investigation into allegations by African-Americans that there was a deliberate campaign to disenfranchise them.

But these claims are going to be studied later in the week by the US civil right commission, which is the country's most powerful anti-discrimination body.

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See also:

16 Dec 00 | Americas
Pressure mounts for electoral reform
15 Dec 00 | Americas
Bush's African-American challenge
14 Dec 00 | Americas
The long road to the White House
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