Friday, March 25, 2005

Jimmy Carter to Chair Election Reform Commission

March 24, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Jimmy Carter will lead a bipartisan commission to examine problems with the U.S. election system, American University's Center for Democracy and Election Management said on Thursday.

Carter, a Democrat whose Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections around the world, will co-chair the private commission with Republican James Baker, who served as Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush.

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat who lost his seat in the 2004 election, will also participate.

"I am concerned about the state of our electoral system and believe we need to improve it," Carter said in a statement. He said the group will assess "issues of inclusion" in federal voting and propose recommendations to improve the process.

"We will try to define an electoral system for the 21st century that will make Americans proud again," he said.

Though disputes over recounts and voter eligibility marred the 2000 U.S. presidential election, international monitors in place in November 2004 reported the polls were mostly fair.

Still, concerns emerged about exceedingly long lines that kept voters from the polls in several states including Ohio, whose 20 electoral college votes ultimately decided the election in President Bush's favor.

The Center for Democracy and Election Management, which will organize the work of Carter's commission, said the group would hold two public hearings -- the first on April 18 at American University in Washington and the second at Houston's Rice University in June.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform aims to produce a report to Congress on its findings by September.

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