Sunday, March 04, 2001

Are black voters disenfranchised?

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Replacing punch-card voting systems in Ohio with more advanced technology was one of several topics discussed Saturday at a Cincinnati “Think Tank” breakfast.

        The seminar, hosted by the Young Professionals Network of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, was the first in a series that will address economic, civic and social issues facing the area.

        The program, “Voter Reform: What Florida Means to Hamilton County,” focused on electronic voting, polling locations, poll workers, voter accessibility and absentee voting.

        Guest speaker Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, explained how new, yet more expensive, electronic voting systems help reduce over-voting in elections. Over-voting occurs when voters inadvertently cast votes for more than one candidate in the same race.

        Mr. Burke said votes are wasted more regularly in African-American precincts than in any other Hamilton County precincts. Of the 25 precincts where the most over-voting occurred in the November presidential election, he said, all 25 were African-American.

        “That suggests to me that we have a system that disproportionally harms African-American voters.”

        Guest speaker Ray Jones, assistant to Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, said plans to improve Ohio's elections have been in the works since before the Florida recount. He said it's possible to improve the state's system without dismantling it.

        “We are looking at ways to make an already good system better,” he said.

        Cincinnati City Councilwoman Alicia Reece said the Network hopes to devise an action plan that will focus on three objectives: voter education, training poll workers and voting equipment.


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