Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

Bay County election problems stir bad Florida memories

Associated Press Writer
Ballot problems that initially gave last-place finisher Dick Gephardt a 2-1 lead in Bay County over the state's Democratic presidential primary winner John Kerry brought back memories of Florida's previous botched elections.

Bay election officials said Wednesday that the miscount was caused by an error on the Florida Panhandle county's printed optical scanner ballots for the presidential race and a straw vote on relocating the Panama City-Bay County International Airport. Officials were expected to finish recounting the ballots by hand later Wednesday.

"It could happen anyplace," said Kevin Hill, a Florida International University political science professor. "It's just every time it happens in Florida, people notice more."

Florida became the butt of jokes with the infamous 2000 presidential recount. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped it after 36 days, giving Republican George W. Bush a 537-vote victory in Florida and just enough electoral votes to defeat Democrat Al Gore nationally.

The state then encountered voting machine glitches and other problems in the 2002 primary election. The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, took the extraordinary step of ordering polls to stay open two hours longer than usual to make sure everyone got a chance to vote.

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen withheld the presidential primary results about a half hour after the polls closed Tuesday because of the strange surge by Gephardt, the former U.S. House minority leader from Missouri, who ped out of the race in January. He received 1 percent of the vote statewide, finishing last among the nine candidates on the ballot. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator and the party's presumptive nominee, received 77 percent.

Bay officials initially suspected a computer software glitch for the miscount, but the blame later shifted to a coding system that was incorrectly printed on the ballots. In the optical scanner system, voters use a pencil to mark their ions, which are then counted by machine.

"No vote was lost; every vote was counted," said Secretary of State Glenda Hood. "I don't think it in any way creates any significant concerns for future elections."

The problem apparently didn't affect the straw ballot and Andersen eventually released unofficial totals that indicated voters had rejected the new airport by 10,959 to 9,148 votes, or 55 to 45 percent.

Opponents claimed victory but proponents refused to concede pending the recount.

Florida did away with punchcard voting machines that caused most of the trouble in 2000 as election officials tried to determine whether a partly punched, or "hanging," chad should be counted.

Counties such as Bay that used optical scanners avoided that issue four years ago, but Tuesday's problem just showed that no system is perfect, Hill said.

"All of them are prone to error - human error or mechanical," Hill said.

The good thing about the scanner problem was that Tuesday's Democratic primary wasn't close, Hill said.

Kay Clem, president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections, agreed problems are inevitable particularly in a large state such as Florida, which has 9.3 million voters and 20,000 poll workers.

"Somebody is going to have a hiccup somewhere," said Clem, the supervisor of elections in Indian River County.

As a result of the 2000 embarrassment, however, Florida passed uniform standards for determining voter intent, adopted state-of-the-art technology and now leads the nation in election reform, Clem said.

All counties now have optical scanners at least to count absentee ballots, but some rely primarily on touch screen technology - similar to bank ATMs - that does away with paper ballots. That has created a new controversy with some politicians demanding a paper receipt system in case something goes wrong with the electronic count.

Clem said that's unnecessary because the touch-screen machines certified for use in Florida can produce a paper trail if needed and they have been tested and retested.

Previous Page

Election Problem Log image
2004 to 2009


Accessibility Issues
Accessibility Issues

Cost Comparisons
Cost Comparisons

Flyers & Handouts

VotersUnite News Exclusives

Search by

Copyright © 2004-2010 VotersUnite!