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Senator calls for sweeping election overhaul

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/27/nelson.voting/ updated 2:51 p.m. EDT, Thu March 27, 2008 Senator calls for sweeping election overhaul From Alexander
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 28, 2008
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      http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/27/nelson.voting/

      updated 2:51 p.m. EDT, Thu March 27, 2008
      Senator calls for sweeping election overhaul

      From Alexander Mooney
      CNN Washington Bureau

      (CNN) -- Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday proposed an
      overhaul of U.S. presidential election laws, saying
      the dispute over delegates in Florida and Michigan has
      exposed a flawed nominating system.

      Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida proposes getting rid of
      the Electoral College system.

      In a speech on the floor of the Florida state Senate
      Thursday, Nelson said he formally will introduce
      legislation that will attempt to fix many of the
      problems exposed by this cycle's round of presidential
      primaries, adding that the "time for reform is now."

      "This country cannot afford to wait that long before
      we fix the flaws we still see in our election system,"
      Nelson said. "The blessings of liberty cannot wait."

      Specifically, Nelson said he will propose six rotating
      interregional primaries that "will give large and
      small states a fair say in the nomination process."

      These primaries would be conducted on dates ranging
      from March to June, Nelson said, taking the place of
      the current early-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire
      -- which critics long have argued aren't
      representative of the American electorate.

      The dates initially would be set by a lottery system
      for the 2012 election and would rotate positions in
      successive elections.

      Nelson called for early voting in every state and the
      elimination of voting machines that do not produce a
      paper trail. Video Watch more on voting problems »

      The Florida Democrat also said all citizens should be
      allowed to vote absentee if they so choose, and he is
      pushing for a federal grant incentive program to help
      develop voting by mail and via the Internet.

      Nelson also formally will seek to award the presidency
      based on the popular vote instead the Electoral
      College -- a move that would require a stand-alone
      bill since it would require an amendment to the
      Constitution.

      "The goal is simple: one person, one vote," Nelson
      said in his speech Thursday.

      Nelson's Senate office said he is working to gain
      support for the bill and indicated it could be ready
      for a committee hearing in the coming weeks.

      Previous electoral reform efforts, especially those
      seeking to eliminate the Electoral College, have
      failed to gain widespread support.

      Last fall, three senators also introduced a proposal
      for four regional primaries, but the legislation
      failed to gain traction. Nelson, along with Sen. Carl
      Levin, D-Michigan, also proposed a regional primary
      plan last fall.

      Nelson, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton's White
      House bid, has been at the center of election overhaul
      efforts for much of last year since leaders in his
      state voted to move up the presidential primary ahead
      of the approved date by the Democratic and Republican
      parties. Video Watch more on the challenges Clinton
      faces »

      The Democratic National Committee stripped his state
      of all convention delegates, while the GOP penalized
      Florida by cutting its delegate strength in half.

      Last fall, Nelson unsuccessfully sued his party over
      the sanction, saying the lawsuit "is about the right
      of every American to have access to the ballot box,
      and to have that vote count -- and to have it count as
      intended."

      The DNC took similar action against Michigan, and both
      states' convention delegations are the subject of a
      heated back-and-forth between the two Democratic major
      presidential candidates and local party leaders.

      Nelson, a strong proponent of a mail-in revote in
      Florida earlier this month, has warned of a "train
      wreck" for the Democratic Party should it snub his
      state at the national convention in August.

      But the revote efforts in Florida and Michigan, which
      Clinton campaign strongly has championed, failed to
      gain approval.

      Neither state will be awarded seats at the convention
      unless the two candidates and the DNC can agree on a
      compromise that satisfies all parties.

      "If nothing else, this election has provided further
      evidence that our system is broken," Nelson said
      Thursday.

      "My fight has been based on the principle that in
      America every citizen has an equal right to vote.

      "It is based on a premise that Floridians are entitled
      to have their votes count as intended. And it is based
      on a belief that we all deserve a say in picking our
      presidential nominees.
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