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With a little over two weeks until the election, you can't blame Florida officials for being a little anxious. It was Florida where eight years ago, a vote recount put the presidential election on hold for more than a month. This year, it's close again and this week, a McCain strategist told Morning Edition that McCain needs to win Florida. So that's the situation and we find out that there are new voting machines in Florida as well as a controversial law and high turn-out expected all of which raises the possibility of more problems. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN: In Florida, the man on the spot is Secretary of State Kurt Browning, he's the person in charge of the state's election system. This week, he tried to reassure jittery state officials.
Mr. KURT BROWNING (Secretary of State, Florida): We are not taking anything for granted. Florida is ready.
ALLEN: Browning was called before the state's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, and his Cabinet to address growing concerns about the upcoming election. Concerns such as reports of fraudulent new voter registrations, submitted by the community group ACORN. Browning said his office had seen just a scattering of isolated instances. Also, also a report that tens of thousands of ineligible felons may still be on the voter roles. Browning said his office is working on it, but begins by assuming that all registered voters are eligible until proven otherwise. It was the state's chief financial officer, Alex Sink, who finally said what's on the minds of many Floridians.
Ms. ALEX SINK (Florida Chief Financial Officer): We all like media attention. But governor, I'm sure you don't want to be standing up in front of those cameras, explaining yet another fiasco in Florida around voting issues.
Governor CHARLIE CRIST (Republican, Florida): I will not be doing that.
Mr. SINK: Good.
ALLEN: Browning says there will be no fiasco on Election Day. With voter turnout estimates as high as 85 percent, he says people should expect long lines at the polls. But he says that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Mr. BROWNING: Lines are a sign of a healthy democracy. And we are expecting those lines to be at the polls. Now, that being said, it is very incumbent upon the supervisors of elections to make sure they are prepared like any good scout would be.
ALLEN: Adding to the potential problems on Election Day: Many of the largest counties in Florida have just bought new optical scan voting machines. In counties such as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, it's the third voting system used since the 2000 election. The head of the League of Women Voters in Palm Beach County, Pamela Goodman, says that while the optical scan voting system is an improvement, it's not foolproof.
Ms. PAMELA GOODMAN (League of Women Voters in Palm Beach County): It has never been taxed or burdened or used to the extent that it's going to be used in November. In August, we had 102,000 voters - a 13 percent turnout here in Palm Beach County with the new system, and there were some major problems with it.
ALLEN: When a recount was called in a close judicial election, 3,500 votes at first could not be found. Ultimately, a clerical error was blamed, the votes were counted and Goodman says procedures had been adopted to avoid a repeat in next month's election. The League of Women Voters and other groups are also concerned, however, about a new Florida law that may become an issue on Election Day called No Match/No Vote. It requires new voter registrations to be matched against government records. If there's a discrepancy that's not resolved beforehand, voters who show up at the polls will only be allowed to cast provisional ballots. That's one of the issues Democratic lawyer Chuck Lichtman and his army of attorneys will be monitoring on Election Day. Lichtman, in charge of voter protection for Florida Democrats, expects to have 5,000 lawyers at polling places across the state.
Mr. CHUCK LICHTMAN (Democratic Lawyer): We do think that the vast majority of people that show up - and they have an ID, and their picture is on that ID, and their name is on the register, and they can match that picture - that there has to be a really good reason to say that this voter shouldn't vote.
ALLEN: That's an area in which Florida's Republican Secretary of State Kurt Browning and Democrats including some county election supervisors disagree. And it's an issue that may heat up when millions of Floridians turn out to vote on November 4. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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