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Florida


Florida: Court Hears Arguments on Voting Law PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Kathleen Haughney, New Service of Florida   
March 10, 2009
Originally posted here.

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over whether individual counties should be able to require different election standards than the state imposes.

The case stems from an amendment passed in Sarasota County in 2006 that banned touch screen voting machines in the county and required that 5 percent of the voting returns be audited within 24 hours of the election. Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said that state law pre-empted the local law and that the auditing process would interfere with certification.

A smaller audit is typically done after election results are certified in each county.

Peter Antonacci, an attorney for Browning, argued that allowing individual counties to overrule the state could cause confusion and create a situation where auditors could interfere with an elections supervisor's ability to certify the election and announce the winners.
 
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Florida Primary Recount Reveals Grave Voting Problems One Month Before Presidential Election PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Kim Zetter   
October 08, 2008
This article was posted at Wired.com's Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

A month of primary recounts in the election battleground of Palm Beach County, Florida, has twice flipped the winner in a local judicial race and revealed grave problems in the county's election infrastructure, including thousands of misplaced ballots and vote tabulation machines that are literally unable to produce the same results twice.

Experts say the brew of administrative bungling and mysterious technological failures raises new and troubling questions about the county that played a crucial role in the 2000 presidential election debacle, and is one of a handful of counties considered pivotal in the upcoming presidential election. Voting advocates are fearful that problems here -- and perhaps in other election hot spots -- could trigger a replay of the disputed 2000 election.

"It doesn't get any more swing than that swing state," said Pamela Smith, president of election-integrity group Verified Voting, "and that's a major county. This is going to be a very high-turnout election. In any election you should be able to have justifiable confidence in the outcome. If you're having different results every time you count the ballots, that's not going to create confidence."

At issue is an Aug. 26 primary election in which officials discovered, during a recount of a close judicial race, that more than 3,400 ballots had mysteriously disappeared after they were initially counted on election day. The recount a week later, minus the missing ballots, flipped the results of the race to a different winner.
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Voters to Florida Secretary of State Browning: No Match - No Vote is Bad Enough, Don’t Make It Worse PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Florida Voters Coalition   
October 02, 2008
Florida Voter Groups Praise County Supervisors For Helping Voters Urge State to Clear The Path

Voting rights advocates today called on Secretary of State Kurt Browning to allow county Supervisors of Elections to implement the No Match – No Vote law in a way that reduces burdens on voters and increases the chances that unmatched voters who show photo ID at the polls will have their votes counted.  Groups praised county Supervisors for making efforts to allow voters to resolve failed matches by showing identification when they appear to vote at Early Voting and on Election Day.

“We believe that the county Supervisors of Elections are doing their best to ensure that no eligible voter has their vote needlessly thrown out because of bureaucratic red tape,” said Jean Robert LaFortune, President of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the no-match law.  “This is expected to be a very busy election, with huge voter turnout, and with so much to do in so little time, Supervisors trying to help voters can’t afford wasted efforts, They should be permitted to allow unmatched voters to correct their matching deficiency at the polls on Election Day and vote with a regular ballot,” LaFortune said.

“We are concerned that Secretary Browning will prevent Supervisors from allowing unmatched voters to resolve registration issues at the polls,” said Adam Skaggs of The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, co-counsel in a lawsuit challenging the no-match law.  “If voters are forced to take a second step at another time to show their identification, it punishes them and doesn’t stop voter fraud, which is what this law was supposed to be about.  Secretary Browning should not prevent Supervisors from doing everything they can to ensure that eligible voters, who have proven their identity by showing photo ID, can cast a regular ballot and have their votes counted like everyone else,” Skaggs said.
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ACLU and Advancement Project Issue Guide to Florida’s “No Match” Laws PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By ACLU and Advancement Project   
September 29, 2008
View Questions and Answers About Florida's "No Match" Law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project today issued a guide to Florida’s “no match” law. The guide, written in question and answer format, will be distributed throughout Florida, and can be downloaded from the ACLU website.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning began enforcing Florida’s “no match” law on September 8. Since then, rumors misstating the impact of the law have been swirling.

“The Secretary of State’s decision to implement this law on the eve of the election, and less than a month before the voter registration deadline, has resulted in widespread and unnecessary confusion.” said Muslima Lewis, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s Voting Rights Project. “Further, the ‘no match’ law unnecessarily prevents thousands of eligible Floridians from being registered to vote. Proponents of the law now argue that the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but this argument is specious and unfounded since there is virtually no evidence of voter fraud in Florida.”
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Florida Voting Law May Disenfranchise Thousands PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By The Brennan Center for Justice and Advancement Project   
September 12, 2008
The state will start enforcing a law that penalizes voters if their names are misspelled in voter registration records and government databases.

Voting rights advocates are alarmed over the Florida Secretary of State's September 8th decision to enforce the state's "no-match, no-vote" law, a voter registration law that previously blocked more than 16,000 eligible Florida citizens from registering to vote, through no fault of their own, and could disenfranchise tens of thousands more voters in November.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning's last-minute decision to implement the law in the final month before the registration deadline will post a significant hurdle to eligible Florida citizens hoping to vote in November. It will disenfranchise voters who do not send or bring a photocopy of their driver's license to county election officials' offices after voting, even though these voters will have shown their driver's licenses when they went to vote at the polls.

"This 11th-hour decision is an ill-advised move to apply a policy the state has never enforced in its current form, at a time when registration activity is at its highest," stated Beverlye Neal, director of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, a plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenges Florida's matching law. "The Secretary's decision will put thousands of real Florida citizens at risk due to bureaucratic typos that under the 'no-match, no-vote' law will prevent them from voting this November," said Alvaro Fernandez of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, another plaintiff in the case.

"Voters who do everything right, who submit forms that are complete, timely, and accurate, will suddenly find themselves unregistered when they go to vote, just because someone somewhere punched the wrong letter on a keyboard," said Myrna Pérez, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "The no match, no vote policy is unjust and unnecessary, and Florida voters will pay the price this fall," stated Jean-Robert Lafortune, president of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, another plaintiff in the lawsuit.
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3,400 Ballots Missing in Florida Election: Recount Flips Race PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Kim Zetter   
September 04, 2008
This article appeared in Wired.com's Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Palm Beach County, Florida, is in the news again for another election mishap. This time the culprit isn't the county's infamous butterfly ballot that made headlines in the 2000 presidential race. Instead, the problem is ballots used with the county's new $5.5 million optical-scan machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems.
More than 3,000 optical-scan ballots have mysteriously disappeared since the county held an election last Tuesday.

According to tallies a week ago, a total of 102,523 ballots were cast in the election. But according to a recount of one of the races, which was completed this last Sunday, the total number of cast ballots was only 99,045 -- a difference of 3,478. Election officials say they can't explain the discrepancy, though critics are concerned that this is a precursor to problems that could arise in the November presidential election.

The problem was discovered only because the county was conducting a recount of a close judicial race between an incumbent, 15th Circuit Judge Richard Wennet, and his challenger William Abramson. Prior to the recount, Abramson had won the election by 17 votes; but the recount flipped the race and resulted in him losing the election to Wennet by 60 votes. The total number of votes cast in that specific race dropped by 2,900 between the time ballots were counted last Tuesday and the recount.
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Florida: New Voting Machines - Paper Trail to Nowhere? PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Jim Stratton, Sentinel Staff Writer   
August 01, 2008
After Sarasota's 2006 voting debacle, which featured huge undervotes and bitter accusations of technical failures, the state outlawed touch-screen voting. That made optical-scan systems the election technology of choice in Florida.

The move was hailed by reformers, who said the hard-copy ballots of optical systems provided a crucial backstop -- a paper trail -- if the results of an election were decided by just a few votes.

"What we're talking about here is democracy, and it is precious," Gov. Charlie Crist said when he proposed the 2007 overhaul. "You should, when you go vote, be able to have a record of it."

But it hasn't worked out that way.

When legislators passed the new law, they made no provision for a full hand recount, rendering the paper trail of optical-scan systems virtually useless. The law requires that only ballots with too many or too few marks -- so-called overvotes and undervotes -- be reviewed by hand. The rest won't be checked.

"By law, humans can't look at that paper record," said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho. "The system is sort of bass-ackwards."

Read the Entire Article at the Orlando Sun Sentinel.

Statement of EAC Chair Rosemary E. Rodriguez On Florida’s Voter Registration Law PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By EAC Chair Rosemary Rodriguez   
July 08, 2008
On June 24, a federal trial court upheld the state of Florida’s voter registration verification law, which outlines the requirements that must be met to verify a voter’s identity through the state’s voter registration database.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires the chief election official in each state to implement a “single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list.” That list is to be “defined, maintained, and administered at the state level” and must contain the “name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the state.”

In 2005, the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) issued voluntary guidance to assist the states in implementing the provisions of HAVA relating to statewide voter registration list requirements.

The EAC also contracted with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to further study the implementation of statewide registration lists, including some of the issues that have sparked vigorous debate, such as matching protocols, security and interoperability. An interim report issued earlier this year outlines initiatives that can be implemented now and will make a difference in the November election.

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Comparing Florida Elections to USDA Beef PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coalition   
July 04, 2008
It's important that Americans have confidence in their food supply.  But is false confidence the same thing?  What if all beef inspectors in the U.S. decided to stop inspecting beef because they might find problems?  After all, if they found problems, that might hurt consumer confidence.  Sounds absurd, doesn't it?  And yet, this is the exact approach that the Florida Department of State and Florida Division of Elections continue to advocate regarding the state's elections.

Election audits are supposed to ensure that electronic voting machines have accurately counted paper ballots.  These audits -- in this case referring to a hand count of paper ballots following the election to confirm machine counts -- are a vital check on the accuracy of Florida's optical scan voting systems.  But a new emergency rule filed July 1 by the Florida Division of Elections has been carefully molded to say it is checking the accuracy of election results, but is actually accomplishing the opposite.  It is a non-check that won't hurt voter confidence by discovering any problems before the election is certified. 

The audit law passed in 2007 by the Florida Legislature was incredibly weak -- requiring the hand count of just one race per election and only 2% of the precincts in that one race.  But the emergency rule weakens this law even further.  The new rule prohibits any audit from occurring until after the election is certified -- in other words, until it is too late to make any corrections to election results.  It allows days to pass between the random selection of the race and precincts to be audited and the actual start of the audit -- meaning there is plenty of time for an elections office to check those ballots in advance and make sure the audit will match election night results.  As Elaine Ginnold, Registrar of Voters in Marin County, California has stated, "the audit must start immediately, as soon as the precincts are selected, to prevent anyone from messing with the ballots." 
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Florida Voters Urge Secretary Browning To Kill Internet Voting Scheme PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Florida Voters Coalition Press Release   
May 29, 2008
They Say “Operation Bravo” is Dangerous and Illegal

In a letter to Secretary of State Kurt Browning, Florida Voters Coalition today called on Florida to kill a plan to allow Internet votes into Florida’s general election in November. The pilot program called “Operation Bravo” is proposed by Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections, Pat Hollarn, who is also President of the Operation Bravo Foundation that supports it.

“We applaud efforts to improve voting opportunities for military and other overseas voters,” said Dan McCrea, President of FVC, “but this program opens Florida’s ballot box to insecure cyber-votes, cast on secret proprietary systems, and threatens Florida elections. The Legislature understood such threats when it passed the paper ballot requirement last year. Operation Bravo doesn’t use paper ballots making it illegal as well as dangerous.” McCrea said.

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