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State autonomy at polls

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No one wants a replay of the 2000 election when the presidential election was contested for weeks on end.

The events of the 2000 election demonstrated the absolute need for processes that ensure each vote cast is counted and voter fraud is minimized. While there has been great outcry for the federal government to enact voting reforms, this page remains convinced that elections are best left to state and local governments.

Utah House Speaker Marty Stephens, testifying before a congressional committee studying voting reform earlier this week, rightly urged Congress not to mandate one-size-fits-all voting reforms. States have different characteristics that cannot be addressed in a cookie-cutter federal mandate.

Absent federal requirements, state and local election officials must take steps to ensure that election workers are thoroughly trained, that voters know how to use the voting equipment and voters are required to produce identification to curb the incidence of voter fraud.

The disputed Florida election demonstrated the problems that can accompany a partisan election commission. While most people can be counted upon to do their jobs professionally and without favor, partisan election commissions cannot relieve themselves of the appearance of conflict. Seemingly, a diverse commission would lend greater credibility to the process.

Without question, the states need to make a concerted effort to ensure their respective voting mechanisms, whether punch cards, optical scans, paper, levers or some other system, work properly and provide an accurate accounting. And when the outcome of an election is disputed, states must have a designated process to work through the challenges.

No one wants a repeat of the disputed Florida election. But wanting a fair and impartial election system won't make it so. If leaders such as Stephens want state and local governments to continue to oversee elections, it is vital that states lead out on election reform.

Every Utahn who casts a ballot in good faith deserves to have his or her vote count. It is up to Utah leaders to ensure that happens.