The Nov. 29 editorial, "Step Toward Election Standards," is much appreciated, but it should have gone into making the balloting easier and, at the same time, simpler. My recommendation is that federal contests that have candidates for president and vice president, Senate and Congress should be stand-alone elections, unencumbered by state, county and city candidates or issues. Piggybacking all the various candidates for state, county and city offices with the multitude of propositions complicates the balloting and makes it a time-consuming task that many voters shy away from.
By holding a federal election only, a standard ballot for the whole country becomes a reality and may well result in a much larger voter turnout.
Kudos on your call for caution before California breaks out its checkbook to spend millions of dollars on new touch-screen voting technology. Despite the widespread use of touch-screen machines, many of the questions surrounding their reliability have yet to be answered. The potential for human error exists with any system, and despite their electronic nature, the vote tally in a touch-screen system is not automatic. Votes have to be uploaded from the individual machines to the central tabulator that counts all of the votes in a given precinct, meaning the potential for error is very real.
The other thing to consider is over 30% of California's 16.5 million registered voters cast absentee ballots during this last election, and that number is likely to hit 50% by 2008 or 2010. Given that, does it make sense to rush headlong into spending millions of dollars on touch-screen voting machines that, proportionally speaking, are going to be used by fewer and fewer voters?
What we can't lose sight of in the push to "modernize" the vote-counting process is the reality that people need to have confidence their votes are going to be counted accurately. If they don't, we'll have spent millions of dollars on high-tech voting machines and lost something even more valuable -- the integrity of our voting system.
Sen. Debra Bowen
Re "Activists Keep Heat on Ohio Over Ballot Errors," Nov. 30: In his Ohio rallies, Jesse Jackson raised many valid, urgent concerns regarding widespread election irregularities on Nov. 2, and yet the media seem far more concerned with similar problems in the Ukrainian presidential election. What's wrong with this picture? If Americans can't be certain of their own election results, that's a very serious matter that goes to the heart of our democratic system, to say the very least. Media outlets must be vigilant in reporting and investigating all voting.