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Attention on Florida voting could help push reform in Mississippi

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Jan. 9, 2001
Lauderdale County Circuit Court Clerk Donna Jill Johnson is hopeful the heavy attention placed on Florida's election laws will help push state lawmakers into updating election laws in Mississippi.
Johnson said numerous older laws, even though outdated, are still being used to govern Mississippi elections.
For example, Mississippi does not require a photo identification card and is among only a handful of states where no form of photo ID is required when voters sign their names in a log book. The Mississippi Secretary of State's Office has proposed legislation to "clean up" minor glitches in the state's voting process, but Johnson said the bill is usually met with opposition in the Legislature and changes are rarely made.
The "clean up" bill has yet to be introduced in the 2001 legislative session.
Johnson believes Lauderdale County's election process is much cleaner and decisive than Florida's. The county utilizes a system called "Optech Eagle III" in which voters use writing utensils to darken in arrows beside the name of the candidate for whom they wish to vote.
Only six of Mississippi's 82 counties still use punch card ballots similar to those in Florida, Johnson said.
And, officials say not even the strongest reforms will absolutely shield Lauderdale or any other county from the kind of criticism Florida received.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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