Florida Move Would Back Up Electronic Voting

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Florida, famous for its election snafus, is taking steps to put that history behind it. The state's new Republican governor, Charlie Crist, says he wants to require the use of paper ballots in all 67of the state's counties. That would mean phasing out the use of touch-screen voting machines, which currently count nearly half the ballots cast in Florida.

After the 2000 presidential election debacle, in which a recount exposed Florida's faulty punch-card systems, the state, under Gov. Jeb Bush, embraced ATM-style touch-screen voting in a big way. The state's largest counties rely almost exclusively on touch-screen machines.

But in recent elections, there have been problems.

In Sarasota, for example, the Democratic candidate in the 13th congressional district is challenging the victory of her Republican opponent because of a discrepancy she attributes to the touch-screen machines: More than 18,000 ballots cast on the machines registered no vote in the congressional race.

Gov. Crist said he wants to get rid of all those touch-screen machines and replace them with optical scanning systems that would read paper ballots. He called it "common sense and the right thing to do." The plan is predicted to cost nearly $33 million.

Crist said he hopes to have all the state's touch-screen machines replaced by optical scan systems in time for next year's presidential election. But that may be overly optimistic. One election supervisor said that, given the time needed to purchase new machines and train personnel, the earliest the state may be able to replace its touch-screen machines is 2010.



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