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Prospects dim for election overhaul bill

The House of Representatives passed a similar election bill last year.
The House of Representatives passed a similar election bill last year.  

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Legislation to overhaul the nation's election system appeared unlikely to pass Friday after Senate Democrats failed to overcome a Republican filibuster prompted by a dispute over how to battle voter fraud.

By a vote of 49-39, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to break the stalemate. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said he would give negotiators until Monday to find a compromise: After that he will move off the legislation, he said.

At issue is whether first-time voters must show a photo identification to vote, as Republicans want, or whether a simple signature would suffice, as Democrats support.

The issue has torn apart what until this week was bipartisan agreement on a bill aimed at correcting problems exposed during the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Included in a bipartisan agreement reached late last year was a measure sponsored by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, to require a photo ID for first time voters who vote by mail.

"Ninety percent of adult Americans have a driver's license. You have to show an ID to get on a plane, to rent a video, to buy cigarettes. Why can't you have some minimal identification to assure that you are a live human being, entitled to vote, and entitled to vote only once in every important election?" Bond asked on the Senate floor.

But Democrats, led by Sen, Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, tried this week to strip the photo ID requirement from the bill, contending it would disenfranchise some voters in the inner city and on Indian reservations, both traditionally home to Democratic constituents.

According to Democratic leaders, a broad coalition of civil rights groups have said they will not support the bill if the photo ID requirement remains because it mostly affects the voting rights of minorities and the poor.

"[There are] millions of people today who are not going to get to vote because they don't have a photo ID, because they don't have any means of showing identification through ownership," Daschle said.

Despite the impasse, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, the Democrat who led the charge crafting the election reform bill, said he will continue to work toward compromise.

One possible compromise would be applying the photo ID rules only to states where more than 45 percent of voters sent in ballots by mail in the last election. In the next election, that would apply only to Oregon and Washington.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Republicans will stand firm on getting a voter fraud measure they find acceptable, but he does not think the bill is dead yet.

Daschle also hinted he may be willing to yield on the issue in order to get the bill through the Senate and into a House-Senate conference.

The bill includes provisions for greater access for the disabled and computerized state registration lists

The House passed similar legislation last year.




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