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Martin County democratic executive committee wants paper backups of votes sought

By Jim Turner staff writer
March 9, 2004

As registered Democrats cast electronic ballots today, Treasure Coast Democrats want future votes to be recorded on paper, too.

The Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has asked the county and state to include a device into every voting machine to create a hardcopy backup of individual votes.

As has been requested in other South Florida counties, committee Chairman Terence Nolan said the electronic system is subject to programming errors, equipment failure and individual tampering.

"There are a lot of people feeling that the system could be flawed, especially after 2000," Nolan said. "And with the look of how everything has gone on, it's important to have other safeguards in place."

Any chance to have a hardcopy system installed in each voting machine could not occur today and is expected to remain unavailable by the fall elections because the state has yet to certify the machines to include any paper trail of votes, said Peggy Robbins, Martin County supervisor of elections.

Also, if the state certified a paper-trail system, the county would have to decide how to pay to fit the new equipment into each of the 767 machines the county was required to purchase following the disputed 2000 presidential election, Robbins said.

"We don't have a price on it because they don't have it," Robbins said.

In St. Lucie County, Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker isn't ruling out installing printers someday for the county's voting machines, produced by Diebold Election Systems.

It may not be as costly for St. Lucie County to add printers as it would be for some other counties, because it will be using a blended system in which the electronic machines will be sharing space with the optical scan machines. Optical scan machines electronically tally paper ballots, which can be examined in the event of a recount.

Walker said the greatest challenge for officials is ensuring voters of the integrity of the process.

"If it takes paper trails to do that, it's our responsibility as public officials to do that, in my opinion," she said.

The issue has not been as pressing for area Republicans.

Charlie Kane, a leader of the Martin County Republican Executive Committee since 1982, said he didn't know why Republicans haven't also been calling for the paper records.

"The only thing I would say is, I don't remember anyone screaming for a paper trail when we had the old machines," he said.

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