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Group to examine county election practices

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

In an effort to avoid a repeat of this year's continuing fight over Florida's electoral votes, county officials plan to soon begin studying election practices around the country.

The National Association of Counties announced last week that it plans to launch a four-pronged approach to studying the Nov. 7 election, according to a press release from the organization.

And Harrison County's representative to the association said she believes the study is justified by the possible problems brought to light by Florida's close presidential race.

"I think it's a good idea even if nothing else comes out of this fiasco than citizens being made more aware of how important it is that they vote responsibly," Commissioner Beth Taylor said.

The association's plan involves formation of a blue-ribbon panel of election and county officials that will spearhead a study of election issues, according to the press release.

The organization also plans to start an e-mail discussion group for county officials and an information clearinghouse designed to show the best election practices in the country.

Finally, the group will conduct a series of workshops on the issue at its March 2-6, 2001, legislative conference in Washington, D.C.

"The election process begins and ends at the county level," the association's president, Jane Hague, said in the press release.

"One good thing that has come out of this year's election is that people have started talking about the role of counties in the electoral process. People are starting to understand that elections are handled at the county level and should be thought of in terms of counties."

And Harrison County could have something to contribute to and benefit from the national discussion.

"I am very pleased with the accuracy of our system," Taylor said. "We experienced no problems (similar to Florida's)."

One of the biggest problems the county experienced this year was the large number of people who visited the polls who were not registered to vote, Taylor said. Those ballots, therefore, were not counted, she said.

One possible conclusion of the association's study could partially include a recommendation for counties to update their voting equipment, Taylor said.

That could have a big price tag, but it might be necessary, Taylor said.

"Every candidate is owed a fair count," Taylor said.

More information about the National Association of Counties is available on their Web site at www.naco.org.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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