Florida Audit Reveals Serious Problems With State's Election Administration
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By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA
June 21, 2006
Activists Welcome Audit's Finding But Contend That It Only Scratches the Surface
Download The Auditor General's Report
Florida’s Auditor General William Monroe has released an operational audit that focused on the Department of State’s administration of the Federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) during the period July 1, 2004, through February 28, 2006, and selected actions taken through May 23, 2006. Through June 30, 2005, the Department has been awarded $160 million in HAVA funding on behalf of Florida. The audit was highly critical of Secretary of State Sue Cobb (pictured at right) and the State Division of Elections, listing a dozen findings of problems with the state’s efforts to comply with the Help America Vote Act.
According to the aduit, the Department does not have a procedure in place to evidence for the public record that voting systems being certified had met the requirements of Florida law and does not prohibit the Secretary of State and any examiners from having a financial interest in the examination of and approval of voting equipment.
Further, the audit reveals that the Department does not maintain a current, reliable control listing of voting systems certified and in use by the counties, nor does it have a procedure in place to ensure that voting system information was on file with the Department.
The audit also found that the state incorrectly calculated the required maintenance costs that were included in the State of Florida HAVA Plan and also did not maintain the required level of expenditures for the 2004-05 fiscal year and salary certifications required for employees who worked solely on the HAVA Program were not maintained. The state has not instituted sufficient procedures to ensure that voter education programs are in compliance with Florida law and the state has not always followed Federal requirements with regards to awards to other State agencies.
In a written response to the audit, Secretary of State Sue Cobb tried to excuse her Department saying, "The department has been focused on meeting the January 2006 deadline imposed on all 50 states. This effort has allowed little opportunity for the department’s staff to become familiar with all the nuances of a large federal grant program."
Florida election integrity activists welcomed the audits find but were quick to note that the findings only scratched the surface of problems with the state’s election administration. “The audit hasn’t covered half of it,” commented Anita Lapidus of Florida Fair Election Coalition (FFEC). “There is no security testing of these machines at the State or federal level. There is no way to recover lost votes.”
A.J. Devies, another representative of FFEC, responded that she was “delighted someone is finally investigating the farce that is Florida’s election system.” She noted “We have machines that add or lose votes (quite conveniently at times) and no way to know the true voter intent.”
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