What’s Wrong with Florida?

Welcome to the Voting Irregularity State

Once again, the state of Florida is vying to cement its reputation as the Voting Irregularity State. This time, the problem was not hanging chads (which would be a great name for a rock band) but electronic voting machines that seemingly failed to register some 18,000 votes in Sarasota. What is particularly troubling—beyond a good many people having their votes discounted—is that the election still hangs in the balance and there is no paper trail to go back and check. The New York Times has the story:

In Florida, Echoes of 2000 as Vote Questions Emerge

A Democrat who narrowly lost the Congressional race here is seeking a recount after dozens of people reported problems using Sarasota County’s touch-screen voting machines and a significant number of ballots had no recorded votes in the high-profile race.

The Democrat, Christine Jennings, lost to her Republican opponent, Vern Buchanan, by just 373 votes out of a total 237,861 cast — one of the closest House races in the nation. More than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County, or 13 percent of those who went to the polls Tuesday, did not seem to vote in the Congressional race when they cast ballots, a discrepancy that Kathy Dent, the county elections supervisor, said she could not explain.

In comparison, only 2 percent of voters in one neighboring county within the same House district and 5 percent in another skipped the Congressional race, according to The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota. And many of those who did not seem to cast a vote in the House race did vote in more obscure races, like for the hospital board.

More than 100 voters have told the Jennings campaign that their votes for her did not show up on the summary screen at the end of the touch-screen voting process, and that they had to re-enter them. The candidate’s lawyers said they feared that not everyone had noticed the problem or realized that they could re-enter the vote.

“There is a spontaneous combustion of outcry in this county,� said Kendall Coffey, a lawyer who was on Vice President Al Gore’s legal team in the 2000 presidential recount and is now working for Ms. Jennings. “We are determined to do everything we can to make sure that every vote counts and everything we can to get to the bottom of this.� [full text]

Every vote must count. It is our due as citizens. Because of the concerns about electronic voting machines, particularly the ones that provide no mechanism for effectively double-checking the results, Common Cause has begun an initiative—called Get It Straight By 2008—to enact legislation that would provide “for paper trails and random audits for ALL electronic ballots.� The organization offers a petition (here) that citizens can sign and send to their senators. Please consider taking a few moments to do so. Gracias.

2 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Florida?

  1. Any word on the demographics of the uncounted area? Before the election I heard a stat that only 30% of African-Americans were fully confident that their votes would be counted.

  2. I remember hearing one politician tell everyone to vote absentee…I am beginning to think that may be Florida residents best bet.

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