Michigan may be at the forefront of election reforms as the National Association of Secretaries of State meet in Washington to discuss methods of preventing the controversial events of the Florida recounts from recurring.

“Michigan is way ahead of the game when it comes to voting standards,” said Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Michigan Secretary of State Candice Miller.

The confusion in Florida over a uniform system of counting ballots would never have happened in Michigan, Boyd said. “They don”t have the kind of standards that we do.”

The ease with which the recount for the 8th Congressional District race between Dianne Byrum and Mike Rogers proceeded is testament to Michigan”s success in having standards for counting ballots firmly in place, Boyd said.

Some critics have complained that the Qualified Voter File, an electronic voter database, kept some Michigan voters from properly casting ballotsballots. But Boyd vehemently denied any criticism of the system.

“We would reject any suggestion that the Qualified Voter File is out of date,” she said. “Other than a few isolated cases, the QVF worked very well.”

The system has eliminated duplicate voters and is updated on a daily basis, Boyd said.

QVF is “eliminating tremendous opportunities for fraud,” she said.

Still, Michigan”s voting system is not without problems. Miller is hoping to announce the members of her blue-ribbon committee to look into voter reforms soon. Three of the four appointees from each legislative caucus have already been submitted.

Boyd said Miller hopes to have proposals ready to be presented to the Legislature by spring.

Kay Albowicz, communications director for NASS, said representatives from 44 states came to form a blueprint for voting reforms in their states.

“There is a big disparity some states already have these things in place,” Albowicz said of the many points brought up in the conference, including poll-worker recruitment, enhancement of absentee ballot integrity and continuous training of election officials.

“Michigan is generally regarded as a well-run election state,” Albowicz said.

One of the biggest problems facing a massive overhaul of voting systems is the high cost, but remedies are available at the state and federal levels.

If the Legislature adopts reforms made by the blue-ribbon committee, the “state would be required to make that funding available,” Boyd said.

There is also legislation in the works to provide federal funding for the renewed voting systems. Last week U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) announced changes made to a bill they previously presented in December.

The bill, known as the Federal Election Modernization Act of 2001, would establish an independent blue-ribbon commission to look at voting reforms and provide $2.5 billion over five years for the execution of those reforms.

“Now that the new president and Congress have settled in, it”s time to get to work and pass a voting reform bill so that what happened in 2000 never happens again,” Schumer wrote in a statement released last week.

“In the information age, surely the Internet can become to the voting process what the ATM has become to personal banking. This legislation will help those states that wish to enter the information age for their elections,” Brownback wrote in the same statement.

The senators plan to introduce the bill to the Senate in the upcoming weeks.

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