Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Electronic voting: Floridians sue for recounts if machines get glitchy 

Oh, wait a minute. The electronic machines are computers! So that "glitchy" thing will never happen. Phew!

Voting rights groups sued Florida election administrators on Wednesday to overturn a rule that prohibits manual recounting of ballots cast with touch-screen machines, a lawsuit with echoes of the state's disputed 2000 presidential election voting.

The lawsuit said the rule was ``illogical'' and rested on the questionable assumption that electronic voting machines perform flawlessly 100 percent of the time. It also said the rule violated a Florida law that expressly requires manual recounts of certain ballots if the margin in an election is less than 0.25 percent of the votes cast.

The plaintiffs said in their suit the electronic voting machines were ``known to malfunction and to be subject to malicious tampering.''

Fifteen Florida counties containing about half the state's population use electronic touch-screen voting machines. They include the three most populous counties -- Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach -- that were at the heart of the 2000 punch card ballot recount battle.

Florida banned punch card ballots after 2000, but there have already been glitches with the electronic machines that replaced them in some counties.

Audit tests using the new touch-screen machines last year showed some of the data recorded on the Miami-Dade machines were not transferred to electronic logs that would need to be reviewed in a recount.

`The experience of Miami-Dade County alone shows that they (the machines) are subject to all kinds of errors. That's precisely why we must have a mechanism in place to recount all of the votes in close elections,'' said Florida ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon.

About 30 percent of U.S. voters cast their ballots on electronic voting machines in 2002, according to the Council of State Governments. In California, problems with the machines forced the state to rewrite its electronic voting rules in April and decertify those used in one-third of its polling places.

Florida's touch-screen machines do not produce printouts of the ballots. Other lawsuits winding through the courts have sought to require the printouts. Wednesday's lawsuit did not specifically ask for them, but said there must be some means of ensuring the integrity of the electronic machines, in order to secure voter confidence.
(Reuters via the New York Times)

Sheesh. So why not just ask for an audit trail in the suit? I don't get it.

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