updated 4/9/2004 6:18:22 PM ET 2004-04-09T22:18:22

When Americans turn out to cast ballots in November elections, the voting system will be in no better shape than it was in 2000, a panel of voting experts said Friday.

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Problems with electronic voting machines in this year’s primaries illustrated that changes have been slow, despite the implementation of new standards meant to improve the system, panelists told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The commission, an independent bipartisan agency, has been examining the voting system since the 2000 presidential election, when the Supreme Court decided the outcome after voting problems in Florida and other states.

“Most states really won’t be ready. We’re ending up in ’04 with the very same problems and issues that were there before,” said Mary Frances Berry, committee chairperson. The group plans to study the issue of election reform in the fall, shortly before the November elections.

Congress passed the federal Help America Vote Act in 2002 and set new standards — such as requiring ID for first-time voters. The law forced states to look at using electronic voting machines instead of punch cards to avoid the problems with ballots that Florida encountered in 2000. But money to make the changes has been slow in getting to states. Forty-one states have received waivers giving them until 2006 to have computerized voter registration lists.

Because states must replace punchcard and lever machines, voting officials nationwide are buying electronic machines — many of which use touch-screen technology.

That alone doesn’t solve the problem of inaccurate votes, said Michael Shamos, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “They haven’t rushed to educate people on how to properly use the machines, which is creating all kinds of problems,” he said.

The use of computerized voting has prompted questions about security, reliability and whether or not paper trails should be used. More than a dozen states are considering issuing paper receipts for voters to verify before casting their ballots, but some voting experts warn that there still could be problems, such as discrepancies between those and the computerized ballots.

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