Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gov. Crist: Paper Ballots for Florida

Crist wants touch-screen voting machines gone
Published January 31, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — Eager to end six troublesome years of touch screen voting in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist wants every county to switch to paper ballots by 2008.

Crist will ask the Legislature to spend more than $30-million to replace touch screens with an optical scan system that allows a voter to mark an oval next to a candidate’s name before slipping a ballot into an electronic reader — the same way absentee ballots are cast.

The change would affect a majority of the state’s voters living in 15 mostly urban counties, including Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco.

Crist will travel today to Palm Beach County, home of the disgraced “butterfly ballot” that in 2000 became a symbol of electoral ineptitude.

Accompanied by Secretary of State Kurt Browning and U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democrat and a vocal critic of touch screen voting, Crist will endorse the change in voting systems while offering the money to pay for it.

“I think it’s important to make sure people have confidence in our voting system,” Crist said Wednesday. “If there’s a need for a recount, I think it’s important that we have something to recount.”

On Monday, Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, plans to introduce a bill in Congress that would require all voting machines nationwide to produce paper records through which voters can verify that their ballots were recorded correctly. A majority of House members have endorsed the proposal, and the changes have strong support among Senate Democrats. Mr. Holt’s bill would also substantially toughen the requirements for the touch-screen machines that have printers, and experts say this could give even more impetus to the shift toward the optical scanning systems.

...Mr. Holt said his bill would require the return to paper ballots by next year’s presidential primaries, and it would authorize $300 million in federal money to upgrade the machines. Some state and county election officials say it could be difficult to make such sweeping changes by then.

February 2, 2007
Florida to Shift Voting System With Paper Trail

DELRAY BEACH, Fla., Feb. 1 ­ Gov. Charlie Crist announced plans on Thursday to abandon the touch-screen voting machines that many of Florida’s counties installed after the disputed 2000 presidential election. The state will instead adopt a system of casting paper ballots counted by scanning machines in time for the 2008 presidential election.

Voting experts said Florida’s move, coupled with new federal voting legislation expected to pass this year, could be the death knell for the paperless electronic touch-screen machines. If as expected the Florida Legislature approves the $32.5 million cost of the change, it would be the nation’s biggest repudiation yet of touch-screen voting, which was widely embraced after the 2000 recount as a state-of-the-art means of restoring confidence that every vote would count.

Several counties around the country, including Cuyahoga in Ohio and Sarasota in Florida, are moving toward exchanging touch-screen machines for ones that provide a paper trail. But Florida could become the first state that invested heavily in the recent rush to touch screens to reject them so sweepingly.

“Florida is like a synonym for election problems; it’s the Bermuda Triangle of elections,” said Warren Stewart, policy director of VoteTrust USA, a nonprofit group that says optical scanners are more reliable than touch screens. “For Florida to be clearly contemplating moving away from touch screens to the greatest extent possible is truly significant.”...



Robert Zimmerman, Democratic Strategist
James Taranto, Opinion Journal editor
Michael Goodwin, New York Daily News

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