Thursday, November 16, 2006


If you want a case against touch screen voting machines, one should only look a short distance to Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

As election officials in Sarasota go through the motions of a recount, the primary concern of many is not being addressed. Hundreds of voters there complained on Election Day that they were unable to view the congressional candidates' names on their screens and/or had problems insuring that their choices were locked in. The result was an exceptionally unusual 13 percent undervote in the Vern Buchanan - Christine Jennings race. In a highly visible race such as this, the normal undervote is less than two percent.

It seems as though the main problem was the flawed design of the electronic ballot. In Sarasota County, the congressional race was on the same screen page as the six person gubernatorial contest. Were voters required to scroll down the page in order to view the House candidates' names? If so, were they properly instructed by precient officials on how to do so?

The same thing occured in Charlotte County, where an unusually high undervote was noted in the race for Attorney General. Charlotte County uses the same touch screen system, and there the congressional race was on it's own screen page while the AG's race was on the screen page with the gubernatorial candidates. The undervote in the congressional contests was within normal parameters.

That makes the excuses being made by Sarasota elections chief Kathy Dent sound weak.

This election makes clear that the touch screen method of voting is insufficient to insure that everyone's choices are duly noted. The method used in Polk and a number of other counties across Florida, an optical scan system which uses a paper ballot, is far superior in that it scans and counts the votes electronically
while providing a paper trail to resolve disputes and eliminates the types of debacles we are seeing now. It is a method that more counties should seriously consider.


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