Congress should not link federal election changes with campaign reforms

Posted: Thursday, February 01, 2001

The 2000 election exposed a number of flaws in the way this country elects our president.

The confluence of errors was embarrassing. ...

Party affiliation aside, surely no one would approve of the presidency of the United States being decided by the limitations of technology -- especially when it's so obvious that we can do better. ...

That's why it was encouraging ... to hear President Bush and Republican and Democratic members of Congress agree that the electoral process should be improved to decrease the likelihood that voters will be confused and minimize the chance of spoiled ballots. ...

To Florida's credit, state officials are not waiting on the federal government to suggest changes. At a statewide meeting of election supervisors ..., a committee was formed to study new voting systems and to establish a statewide system that ''makes the will of the voter self-evident.'' ...

It's unclear now exactly what federal changes might be recommended and even less clear which ones the U.S. government would be able to legally mandate.

It's important, though, that suggested changes be debated on their own merits. Already, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, of Mississippi, is suggesting that any proposals to change federal election regulations be attached to Arizona Sen. John McCain's proposed legislation to enact campaign finance reform.

Campaign finance reform is a separate issue from election reform, and wedding the two issues is likely to bog down the process of meaningful reform. ...

-- The Times-Picayune, New Orleans

Jan. 29

New first lady makes plans to boost literacy in America

Unlike her predecessor, Laura Bush does not have an office in the White House's West Wing. She is less likely to be as high profile in advising President Bush as Hillary Rodham Clinton was in advising her husband.

Yet Mrs. Bush's decision to seek a lower profile does not mean she is not going to be actively involved in issues she cares deeply about.

Primary among them will be literacy. That is an interest she shares with her mother-in-law, former first lady Barbara Bush, but it comes more directly from her own experience as a librarian and teacher.

The need for literacy efforts almost goes without saying. Yet the numbers need to be highlighted because not enough Americans know just how great a challenge this is for the country.

''More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level -- far below the level needed to earn a living wage,'' according to the National Institute for Literacy. ''The National Adult Literacy Survey found that over 40 million Americans age 16 and over have significant literacy needs.''

... According to the NIL, 43 percent of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty, and 70 percent of people with the lowest literacy skills have no full or part-time jobs. ...

... Mrs. Bush's greatest contribution, as her mother-in-law's was, will be to shine a bright light on the need for literacy efforts. ...

-- Muskogee (Okla.) Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat

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