Federal money may help prevent voter fraud in Vermont

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(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says a new election reform bill that has just been passed by Congress could bring as much as $20 million to the state over the next three years to help communities upgrade their local election systems.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It’s law that became a priority in Congress after the problems that developed in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. The legislation allocates nearly $4 billion over the next three years to help communities upgrade voting machines, increase access for the disabled in polling places and it requires states to put together a statewide checklist by the year 2006.

Markowitz says the adoption of a statewide checklist should help reduce voter fraud in Vermont:

(Markowitz) “The one place that makes me nervous in our system is the fact that, because we don’t have a statewide checklist or a statewide voter file, we can’t know if somebody is committing voter fraud. Someone could be voting in Barton and Burlington and Bellows Falls and we would never know because each of those towns has separate lists and they are not cross-referenced or cross-checked.”

(Kinzel) Markowitz says the biggest challenge with the law is a provision that requires all towns to provide at least one voting machine that’s accessible to the disabled. This section could affect a lot of towns because a majority of communities in Vermont still use paper ballots:

(Markowitz) “There is money in the bill to provide those machines, so I don’t see right now that it will be a burden on the towns. Although until we fully digest everything and see how the money pans out, we can’t say that for sure. A result of this may be that more of our towns go to machine ballots. I’m hoping not, but that may actually be the result.”

(Kinzel) The legislation also allocates $5 million to encourage states to create civic education programs that will be aimed at boosting voter turnout among young people.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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