LET'S PREVENT ANOTHER FLORIDA ELECTION DEBACLE

March 11, 2002 12:00 am

Oregons efforts to not become a national embarrassment like Florida 2000 should be applauded.

Thanks to Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, Oregon has set new standards. These cover three areas. The first is counting punch card votes, which account for one-third of Oregon votes. The second is letting people know when their votes have been disqualified because their ballots have arrived at county elections offices after the 8 p.m. election-night deadline. Voters will be told what they can do to be on time and have their votes counted in the next election. The third is county security plans.

County election officials also will know what to do with those nasty little hanging chads and how to consistently interpret voter intent. Unlike Florida, Oregon will have uniform standards in each county, including Union and Wallowa, of what constitutes a punch-card vote.

Vote by mail has its opponents. Not everyone is happy with leaving polling booths behind. But the novel system has made voting easier and more convenient for many Oregonians with ever busier lives and hard-to-adjust schedules. If vote by mail helps more people get involved in electing their government and determining the rules of the land, that is all for the good. More citizens doing their civic duty by voting contributes to the strength of our democracy.

Fixing vote by mail is not an admission of weakness. Its OK to fine tune and continually improve a product. Its important to acknowledges any weaknesses in the system and clean them up for a stronger system in the future. This fine tuning is not an admission of failure but the recognition that improvement is always possible in the interests of providing the best customer service to Oregon voters. The changes being accomplished under Bradburys stewardship should give the states voting system more accountability and more strength to withstand the inevitable challenges of the future.

GOOD SIGN AT HANFORD

The year 2035 is a long way off. But 2070 is an even much further reach of time, when dealing with the nuclear waste mess at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

It was good to see last week that the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Washington signed an agreement to speed the cleanup of Hanford by 35 or more years.

The new target dates are 2025 to 2035. Thats still plenty of years in the future, but not nearly as bad as putting off final cleanup work until 2070. With the agreement, the Bush administration will restore the $300 million that was proposed to be chopped from Hanfords 2003 budget. It will also provide an additional $150 million to pay for cleanup work this year.

Were investing in the peace of mind and well-being of future generations by being responsible and stepping up the cleanup process now. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be grateful for the efforts were making today.