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Report targets possible election flaws

The inspector general reviewed the county's election readiness, issuing a report that focuses on training, absentee ballots and poll security.

BY AMY DRISCOLL AND CHARLES RABIN Miami Herald  26 August 2004

With the primary just days away, Inspector General Christopher Mazzella issued a report Wednesday on Miami-Dade County's election readiness. Among his recommendations: more training for some elections workers, additional security for voting machines and stronger guidelines for handling absentee ballots.

The report, in response to an Aug. 2 memo from County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler, highlights possible problems when voters go to the polls Tuesday. Most can be resolved before the primary, but others won't be.

''I still think we have a pretty good level of confidence in a good election,'' Mazzella said Wednesday.

The county worked with Mazzella's office during the review, so many of the issues already have been addressed, County Manager George Burgess said.

The report highlighted five major areas of concern: training for elections specialists, absentee ballot handling, vetting equipment security, auditing election results and ''parallel testing'' to check the machines' accuracy on Election Day.

Absentee ballots are of particular concern because the state this year ped the requirement for a witness to sign the ballot.


The county, however, hired a handwriting expert to help verify ballot signatures against those on voter registration cards.

The County Commission will consider the report in an election workshop today.

''I tell you, we would never outlive this if we goof up and not have a good election this time,'' said Carey-Shuler.

``We need a fair, good and transparent election that will ensure that every votes counts.''

A series of election flaps led to Carey-Shuler's call for the review.

In late July, Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan told a group of stunned commissioners that her office didn't investigate 1,544 missing votes from a 2002 election because it was not required.

The votes were later found on a disk in an election department closet.


That's when Carey-Shuler wrote a memo to Burgess, calling the county the ``laughingstock of the nation.''

In addition, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas requested a feasibility study on using optical scanning machines that would leave a paper trail a critical concern for some voters for the November election.

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