WASHINGTON (AP) -- Still facing stinging criticism over the way he won last year's election, President Bush is making his first public moves to improve the nation's voting system, accepting a long-awaited report Tuesday from former Presidents Carter and Ford.
Bush, hoping to cast himself as an election reformer, planned to embrace the broad principles of reform outlined in the report while avoiding taking a stand on specific recommendations. "The president sees this as a foundation for reform," said spokesman Scott McClellan.
The study calls for restoring voting rights to felons and allowing voters challenged by poll workers to cast provisional ballots anyway. The votes' validity would be determined later. It also calls for making election day a national holiday.
Steering clear of those specifics, Bush was endorsing the panel's broadest and least controversial findings: Give states and localities the prime role in running elections; modernize ballots and election equipment; protect the rights of U.S. troops voting from overseas; and enforce civil rights laws.
Bush has been under pressure, particularly from Democrats, to correct problems that arose in last fall's Florida election. Bush was declared the winner 36 days after the voting, following a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that effectively halted a partial recount in Florida.
The 13-recommendation report also opposes doing away with punch card ballots, the voting system that sparked much of the controversy in Florida.
According to the summary, eliminating punch card ballot systems could drive jurisdictions to buy other voting systems like optical scan machines that are opposed by advocates for the blind and disabled.
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