updated 9/13/2006 6:20:37 PM ET 2006-09-13T22:20:37

Fixing the problems that arose in the disputed 2000 presidential election and other contests could create brand new woes for voters this November.

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The Brennan Center for Justice, in a report released Wednesday, noted the billions for the states from the Help America Vote Act, which dictated updating voting systems, streamlining registration and providing education for voters and poll workers. The states are carrying out these changes with varying speed and efficiency.

Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center, said the law will move the country forward. He added, however, "the way it is being implemented by many states, combined with new underhanded efforts to crack down on voter registration and participation, could move the country backward. We see a real problem coming up in November in the elections."

The report found five threats to voters' rights: laws making voter registration more difficult; use of databases to keep voters off the rolls; purges of those voter rolls; tough requirements for voter identification or proof of citizenship and questions about the security of electronic voting.

Some examples:
- A 2004 Arizona law which requires that voters at polling places produce government-issued picture ID or two pieces of other non-photo identification specified by the law. It also requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote. A federal judge Monday refused a challenge to that law.

-In late August, a federal judge declared a new Florida voter registration law unconstitutional, ruling that its severe penalties for mishandling of voter registration forms threaten free speech rights and political parties were unfairly exempted.

While measures have been introduced to combat voter fraud, Waldman said such complaints about the frequency of voter fraud are often overstated. And some voters have difficulty obtaining the IDs required by those laws.

States sometimes declare voters ineligible based on erroneous assumptions about how they are listed in computer databases because of errors such as misspellings, Waldman said. Voter lists are purged in ways that sweep eligible voters off the list, he said.

Electronic concerns
The Brennan Center also had a panel of computer experts who concluded that new electronic voting machines have considerable potential for fraud and other problems.

A federal official overseeing the election changes said he doubts there will be more problems.

"There's going to be greater access and fewer errors with voting machines than we have seen in the past because of the new equipment," said Paul DeGregorio, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. "We will have glitches, but overall we will keep getting better."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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