Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

Paper ballots best, group says

By Linda Kleindienst
and Jeremy Milarsky Staff Writers South Florida Sun Sentinel
Posted October 15 2004

Floridians who want their votes to count are better off bypassing new ATM-style voting machines and using a paper absentee ballot, according to a government watchdog group.

Florida Common Cause on Thursday released results of a three-month study that cites numerous incidents illustrating the lack of predictability in the touch-screen machines and studies demonstrating the vulnerabilities of the machines to hackers and poorly trained poll workers.

The Common Cause admonition to vote absentee was directed at voters in the 15 counties that use the electronic voting machines.

"There is ample evidence that the machines can fail," said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Florida Common Cause. "It's the undervotes that are the concern."

An undervote occurs when a voter casts a ballot but no vote is recorded in one or more races. Secretary of State Glenda Hood, Florida's chief election official, said many voters intentionally bypass a race on the ballot.

"It's my choice as a voter, if I choose not to make a ion. I have voted both by absentee and early voting and I, probably on a fairly routine basis, will undervote," Hood said. "I choose not to make a ion. That's my choice."

Broward County voters who cast their ballots the old-fashioned way, on paper, through the mail, were more likely to have their votes counted in the state's Senate primary contest Aug. 31, according to a new examination of voting records by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Undervote figures in Palm Beach County were not available Thursday.

The newspaper analyzed ballots cast only by Broward County voters who belong to one of the two major political parties. It used the same method for recording undervotes as that used by the Florida Division of Elections every two years after general elections.

The analysis found that 1.4 percent of the total absentee ballots cast by major-party voters were undervotes in the Senate primary or flat-out rejected. By comparison, 2.1 percent of ballots cast at the polls on Election Day were undervotes and 2.4 percent of major-party voters who cast ballots early in Broward County cast undervotes.

Despite assurances from the state and local elections supervisors that the machines perform well, the Common Cause study cited:

>A runoff election for Town Council in Wellington on March 26, 2002, revealed that 72 ballots cast electronically were recorded as blank in a race in which the losing candidate lost by four votes.

>During the November 2002 election, when Gov. Jeb Bush defeated challenger Bill McBride, there were about 34,000 undervotes.

>Detailed records of Miami-Dade's first election using touch-screen voting machines were lost after several computer crashes in May and November of 2003.

>During a special election for Florida House District 91, 134 ballots were invalidated as undervotes. The election for the House seat that covers parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties was won by 12 votes.

>A South Florida Sun-Sentinel study that found the percentage of undervotes during the March 2004 Democratic presidential primary was eight times greater in counties using touch-screen machines than in those counties using optical scan paper ballots.

"There is a possibility the election will be tainted. I think it's a strong possibility," said Wilcox, who lays much of the blame at Hood's feet for decisions made by her office, including a refusal to order paper trails for the touch-screen machines.

"Both political parties are jockeying for the best political position. Florida is in control of the Republicans and that gives the Republican Party the advantage," he said.

Hood rejected accusations that her department has not done everything possible to ensure a smooth election.

"We have seen successes are far as elections delivered and we expect it to continue in the future," she said. "I find it very curious that all of a sudden, at the 11th hour, there are questions being raised about the integrity of the process and the integrity of our supervisors of elections. It was not questioned three months ago or a year ago or when the reforms were passed by the Legislature [in 2001]."

Early voting in Palm Beach County begins Monday. Voters can request paper absentee ballots at 561-656-6200.

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!