Clark: "State Needs Upgrades"

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A year ago, Congress passed a law that would provide $3.7 billion to the states to upgrade the election process. When and if it is funded, Secretary of State Eric Clark says Mississippi would receive $34 million.

"We'll be able to buy a statewide computerized voter registration system to link every circuit clerk's office together with each other and the secretary of state's office, to help our local officials get the dead
people off the rolls, get the people who are in jail who should be taken off the rolls and people who have moved away off the rolls," said Clark.

"The second piece is we would be able to afford state of the art voting machines for every precinct in Mississippi," Clark said.

There is no consistency statewide in the machines currently being used.

"We have eight or ten counties that still have punch card machines that got so much publicity in Florida," said Clark. "We do have still about the same number of lever machines and then there are other types. But it is kind of hodge podge across the state."

The machine likely to be recommended for statewide use is called a Direct Recording Election Machine.

"It is a touch-screen machine. In other words, it looks like a TV screen and it is programmed to let you go and punch the candidates that you want votes for in different elections," Clark said. "For one thing, it prohibits you from voting twice in the same race, which is quite common, particularly when you have a ballot that spreads over more than one page."

Clark says the rule of thumb is no more than two percent of the votes in any election should be thrown out. In Mississippi, he said some counties throw out six, eight, even 10 percent of the ballots as improper.