GOV. BUSH signs Florida's election reform

Wednesday, May 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Jeb Bush signed Florida's elections reform package Wednesday in the county that was ground zero in the disputed presidential election eventually won by his brother.

The governor signed the bill surrounded by faces familiar from the drawn-out election battle, including Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, designer of the infamous ``butterfly ballot'' that some Democrats said was so confusing that it cost Democrat Al Gore thousands of votes in the county.

``From the confusion of the election, we have built a system that will be the envy of the nation,'' Bush said at the lunch-hour ceremony.

Bush actually was making two stops to sign the measure into law, just five days after it was passed by the Florida Legislature.

After his first in West Palm Beach, he was to have another ceremony in DeLand, in central Florida's Volusia County.

Palm Beach and Volusia counties were two of the four counties where Gore asked for recounts after the Nov. 7 vote. Both counties voted for Gore over Bush's brother, George W. Bush, who won the presidency after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the recount in Florida on Dec. 12.

Coincidentally, Gore was making his first public appearance in Florida since the election Wednesday, speaking to the Travel Industry Association of America in Orlando.

LePore, who designed the butterfly ballot to make it easier for the county's many elderly voters to read, is newly registered as an Independent. She said Tuesday that she had dropped her Democratic Party affiliation in part because of the way the Democrats treated her after the election.

State lawmakers passed the election reform bill Friday, approving a $32 million package designed to prevent a repeat of the recount debacle.

The measure will eliminate punchcard and hand-counted paper ballots, with their hanging chads and dimples, and all mechanical-lever voting. All precincts will be required to have optical-scan ballot systems in place for the 2002 fall election.

State Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch said Bush, who is to make a formal announcement on his re-election plans next month, is visiting counties ``where he's hurting. Don't let anybody tell you he's not running for re-election.''