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Editorial: Indian River County elections snafu troubling; further investigation needed  (FL)

TC Palm     29 August 2008

No elections system is perfect as Indian River County residents found out Thursday when it was announced that votes were counted twice in many precincts.

The cause? Human error? Mechanical flaw? Software problems? Something worse?

The county's canvassing board needs to get to the bottom of it.

The county used for the first time an optical scan voting system made by the controversial Sequoia Voting Systems, whose products have been used in at least two controversial elections in Palm Beach County. The new machines were purchased when touch-screen systems, such as those formerly used by the county, were banned by the state because they did not include a paper trail of votes.

Initial reports indicate elections officials tested a new system for getting election results via phone line from precincts to the elections office. Those results apparently were not cleared from computers before the real results came in, leading to a doubling of the numbers.

The error, according to Supervisor of Elections Kay Clem, was spotted when a precinct clerk called in to question why the numbers were off. To her credit, Clem got in touch with the canvassing board two judges and a county commissioner and alerted the media to the problem.

She was in a difficult position, just narrowly defeating challenger Cathy Hart, her former chief deputy whom Clem had fired. It was a bitter race in which Hart accused Clem of rarely being in the office. Clem attributed most of the absences to taking care of sick loved ones, and that she was always on call.

It would be a shame if the elections-count snafu turned into a political football. Instead what's needed is an independent probe by the canvassing board to determine who was responsible for the errors and whether this kind of thing will be resolved by the November election. In November, the eyes of the nation will be on Florida, and Indian River County voters will be looking for Clem to run an accurate election as she will be on the ballot against a Democrat, Colman Stewart.

The canvassing board the only official, independent arm of government involved here needs to clearly explain to voters that the results are as accurate as possible.

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