Originally created 07/24/01

Georgians take stance on voting reform



ATLANTA - Anil Lewis isn't sure who he has voted for since 1989.

That's the year he lost his eyesight to retinitis. Since then, he's had to trust friends, family or volunteers to mark his ballot.

Even with help, voting hasn't always been easy, Mr. Lewis told U.S. senators Monday.

"After being put aside for some time ... my mother was able to convince (poll workers) to allow her to assist me," he said of his first voting attempt after losing his sight. "It was a very degrading experience for a 25-year-old man to need his mommy to help him vote."

Mr. Lewis, an Atlanta resident and the president of the city's National Federation of the Blind chapter, was one of several Georgians who testified before the Senate's Rules Committee at a hearing at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building.

During the hearing, voters spoke of long lines, faulty paperwork and even power outages at the polls as Sens. Max Cleland, D-Ga., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., listened.

The Rules Committee, with Mr. Dodd as chairman, is studying several election reform plans in the wake of last year's election fiasco in Florida.

One bill, sponsored by Mr. Dodd, would create a commission to study issues that range from making ballots more accessible to the disabled to registering residents who have been turned off by politics.

It would help fund new voting equipment and allow voters who swear they are registered to vote even when there are problems with their paperwork - although the vote would count only if their stories checked out.

A separate bill by Mr. Cleland would offer as much as $1 billion in federal grants to help states eliminate punch cards and other outdated modes of voting.