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Sunday, March 14, 2004

More trouble with electronic voting machines 

Florida conducted its primary elections on Tuesday, March 9. One would hope that, after the 2000 debacle, the state's election officials would take extra precautions to ensure that all votes were recorded and counted fairly. No such luck. A good summary of Tuesday's screw-ups can be found here. A few items demand attention:

1. With over 60% of precincts reporting in Bay County, Richard Gephardt was leading John Kerry by a margin of 2:1. Gephardt dropped out of the race after Iowa.

2. Fifteen Florida counties use electronic machines that do not produce paper receipts. Results for these counties could be compromised through honest error, or even worse, manipulated by company insiders or election officials. Without receipts, there is no way of holding a recount, or of verifying the reported results.

3. Florida election officials are trying to keep accounts of voting machine malfunction away from the press. County officials ordered police to remove a NY Times reporter from a precinct where there had been reports of vote counting irregularity.

There is some good news too. Robert Wexler (D-Florida) is filing a federal lawsuit to ensure that all voting machines in Florida produce paper receipts by November 2004. He argues, based on the Constitution's equal protection clause, that it is unconstitutional for some counties within a state to have the ability to conduct a recount while others do not.

Electronic voting machines cannot be trusted to count votes accurately. These miscounts may be due to honest error, or they may be due to conscious fraud on the part of industry insiders. Either way, the use of voting machines that do not produce paper receipts presents an unacceptable risk to our electoral process.
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