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PFAWF urges "Paper or Plastic" Vote Option in Florida 
 05 August 2004

WASHINGTON - August 5 - Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF), wrote to Gov. Jeb Bush today urging him to offer Floridians the option of voting on paper ballots that can be recounted instead of the problem-plagued electronic voting machines being used in 15 Florida counties.

"As Gov. Bush knows, the concerns about electronic voting machines are shared by both political parties, elected officials at every level of government, civil rights groups and concerned citizens across the state," Neas said. "The best way to restore voter confidence is to offer voters the choice of ‘paper or plastic,' so voters who prefer paper ballots can feel more secure."

PFAWF is a leading member of a coalition of nonpartisan groups involved in the Election Protection program in Florida, and has joined the ACLU in a pending lawsuit pressing the state to provide a means for recounts of electronic machine votes when necessary.

Following, please find the letter:

August 5, 2004

The Honorable Jeb Bush

PL 05 The Capitol

400 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor Bush,

I write to present a proposal that I believe could help restore confidence in Florida’s elections system following the recent reports of serious problems with electronic voting machines.

As you know, news reports that the Miami-Dade elections office could not find the results of the closely contested 2002 gubernatorial primary election because of two computer “crashes” made headlines nationally. As we learned just this weekend, back-up records were found, but only after an election reform group brought the issue to public attention.

It was not an isolated instance. Your Secretary of State is investigating a “glitch” in the iVotronic machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that affects audits performed after an election. Unacceptably high rates of “undervotes” have been discovered in past races, and today we read in the Miami Herald that your own Division of Elections compiled a report 18 months ago showing that the percentage of undervotes was far higher with electronic voting machines than with optical scan technology in the closely fought 2002 gubernatorial primary.

And of course, just days ago we saw reports of an official Florida Republican Party mailing, featuring the image of the President himself, that urged people to vote absentee because the electronic machines would leave no paper trail in the event of a recount.

As you are well aware, these reports have created a rising tide of mistrust in the electronic voting machines in Florida, and created additional fears that accurate recounts of any election in the state would be impossible. Given the history of the 2000 recount in Florida, and the controversy that has swirled around the flawed “potential felon” purge list, the perception of electoral chaos is beginning to take root.

Governor, I believe it is imperative to take immediate action to restore the faith of the voters in Florida that their votes will count, and can be recounted, whether they are cast on an electronic voting machine or a paper ballot. I would urge you to immediately exercise your executive power and direct other state officials as necessary to take the following steps:

· Direct that in the 15 Florida counties where electronic voting

machines have been installed, they be retrofitted to provide a

voter-verifiable paper trail, and that the paper trail be used to recount votes cast on touchscreen machines, should the need arise.

· In those instances where retrofitting proves impossible in time for the primary or general elections, direct that counties provide sufficient paper ballots at the polling place to provide voters with a choice, allowing them to use either the electronic voting machines or a paper ballot. Further, the state should direct that counties use all means available to provide for a recount of votes cast by electronic voting machine as necessary.

I understand that both measures present additional costs and administrative burdens, but I hope that your administration would be able to identify additional funds to assist these counties. As you know, the Secretaries of State in two other large-population states, Ohio and California, have taken action to ban the implementation of touchscreen voting machines until questions surrounding computer security and voter-verifiable audit trails have been addressed.

Governor, I know you agree that voter confidence in the upcoming elections is crucial, and that nothing is more important to the conduct of a fair election in Florida than the ability to count, and if necessary, to recount each and every vote cast. I know you will find wide, bipartisan support if you take quick and positive action to implement these recommendations.

On behalf of People For the America Way Foundation and our 68,000 members and supporters in Florida, I thank you for your time and consideration.


Ralph G. Neas


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