WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) -- A voter fraud bill currently in conference committee in Congress would guarantee that every citizen have the right to vote, but only once, in an election.
Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said, "The final comprise, I think, does a good job of addressing both of the issues of making it easier to vote and tougher to cheat."
Speaking at a CATO Institute forum Wednesday, Bond said the bill provides $3.5 billion of funding over the next five years to help states and counties improve and update their voting systems. It also provides minimal requirement for the voting systems to ensure minimal error rates. It gives voters the opportunity to correct any errors prior to casting their votes.
Under the bill, funding is provided to help the disabled to access the polling places. And a new election commission is also being established, Bond said.
Bond said some of the bill's provisions re designed to counter situations where a person need only sign a card and send it in to register to vote. That could lead to registration of the dead, as has happened in St. Louis, Bond said, and also with the multiple problems of drive-in registrations.
"Motor-voter has become auto-fraudo, and that is a significant problem," Bond said.
Bond said he has recommended that voters have a photo ID or a written documentation either at the time the person registered or the first time to vote. The written documentation could be a government check, a utility check or a bank statement as long as it shows the name and address of the person.
But Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington office of the NAACP, said the use of photo ID or documents for voting could be a form of discrimination for those who do not have such documentation or are "colored" Americans.
"You just add an additional cost...than simply be able to go and exercise your right as an American citizen to cast your vote." Shelton said.
Shelton said that although the Senate version of the bill is "not perfect," it will provide changes by the year 2006. For example, voters will be able to verify their choices before the votes are cast. Also by the 2004, computerized votes will be used.
"We provide assistance to provisional vote," Bond said. That means that a person can cast a provisional ballot and then the election authority has a 10-day period to check that this person is registered and eligible to vote. Then the ballot of the provisional vote will be counted.
Bond said that prosecution and full disclosure of those who commit voting fraud is very important. He also said that "There is no substitute in the voting process for having strong partisans, strong Democrats watching strong Republicans."
Bond said that strong media attention is also needed to change and improve the election process.
"There are suspicions on both sides (Democrats and Republicans) about what is going on in our decentralized political process," said John Fund, from the Wall Street Journal.
Absentee and early voters increase the chances of voting fraud, Fund said. It increases the cost and difficulties of election campaigns, which share a common ground with the election or voting reform, he added.
"Voting is the most important part of our republican form of government," Bond said. "I believe it is essential to restore faith and confidence in our system to make sure that everybody who is entitled to vote, gets the chance to vote, but only once."