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Wexler files lawsuit demanding printers for new voting machines

By Kathy Bushouse
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted March 9 2004

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler took his crusade for voting machine printers back to court Monday, filing a federal lawsuit in West Palm Beach that claims having no way to manually recount votes from touch-screen machines is a violation of federal law.

Wexler said Monday there is no uniform system for conducting recounts in Florida, since 52 counties use other machines with ballots that can be used in manual recounts. That creates a violation of the right to due process, as well as equal protection granted by the Constitution, he said.

Adding printers to touch-screen machines would remedy that problem, he said.

Wexler filed his suit against Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore and Indian River County Elections Supervisor Kay Clem, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. Joining Wexler as plaintiffs are Palm Beach County commissioners Burt Aaronson and Addie Greene, and Wellington resident Tony Fransetta, president of the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans.

The federal suit is similar, but not identical, to another case Wexler filed in state court that was dismissed last month, said Wexler's attorney, Jeff Liggio.

"This case is far greater in scope," Liggio said. "We're back and we're not leaving."

Liggio said he filed an appeal Monday in the state case.

Neither Clem nor representatives from Hood's office would comment Monday, saying they had yet to see the case.

LePore said she wasn't surprised Wexler was taking his fight for printers to federal court, since he already said that was his plan. She said she still plans to use the printers if they receive state certification and she gets money from the Palm Beach County Commission to buy and maintain them.

Commissioners last month unanimously agreed to buy printers for the county's 5,400 voting machines, although they're not expected to be ready for the Nov. 2 presidential election.

She said Palm Beach County already has heard from disability-rights groups that want any kind of ballot printout used in future elections to be available in alternate formats, such as in Braille or large print, so visually impaired voters can review their ions just as other voters can.

"They are watching all this very, very carefully," LePore said.

That sentiment also was echoed by the sponsors of the federal Help America Vote Act, who wrote in a recent e-mail to circulated among federal legislators that printers would "essentially take the most advanced generations of election technologies and systems available and reduce them to little more than ballot printers." They suggested that rules proposed to require the printers would not give their legislation any time to be implemented, would be costly to states and counties and would subvert disabled voters' right to cast secret ballots.

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