WASHINGTON -- Exactly one year after a historic Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for George W. Bush to claim the presidency, the House on Wednesday approved legislation to upgrade significantly the United States' much-maligned election machinery and in other ways improve the voting process.
A top goal of the bill, approved 362-63, is to junk the equipment that made "hanging chads" a household phrase during the disputed Florida recount. To accomplish that, the legislation would provide $400 million to states to help them replace punch-card ballot machines.
One of the measure's chief sponsors, Rep. Robert W. Ney, R-Ohio, told the House he hopes someday voters can find the punch-card machines only "in the Smithsonian."
The bipartisan House vote for the bill renewed momentum for a reform movement that had stalled soon after Bush was sworn as president. The White House praised the House action, and similar legislation is expected to be debated in the Senate early next year. Passage in that chamber, however, is by no means assured.
The extraordinarily close 2000 presidential election exposed flaws beyond error-prone voting equipment, and the House bill also aims to fix those problems.
If it becomes law, all states would be required to meet new federal standards.
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