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Votes of poor undercounted?

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WASHINGTON — The votes of people living in poor and minority communities were much more likely to go uncounted in the 2000 presidential election than were the ballots of the more affluent, a new congressional study found.

The report was prompted in part by Vice President Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush and prepared for Democrats on the House Governmental Reform Committee. It found that problems like those encountered in Florida were not unique.

Details of the study, which was to be released Monday, were reported by The Washington Post and The New York Times. According to some estimates as many as 1.9 percent of all the votes cast in the last presidential contest went uncounted, the report found.

Some ballots, the study said, were not counted because voters did not vote for a presidential candidate or voted for more than one.

The study found, however, that more often "the ballots were discarded because the voting machine failed to accurately record the intention of the voter."

Rep. Henry Waxman of California, ranking committee Democrat, called the disparities "an outrage" and said they were the result of older and less dependable voting machines used in poorer neighborhoods.

He said the report shows the problem is a national issue that should be addressed by the federal government.

"I think a lot of people thought the problem was a Florida problem and not a problem all around the country," he said.

Bush lost the popular vote but narrowly won the electoral vote after the Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida, and he was awarded the state's 25 Electoral College votes.