WASHINGTON - July 29 - With new doubts about the reliability and accountability of electronic voting machines and daily revelations of continuing chaos in the Florida elections process -- including a Republican Party mailing questioning the ability to recount votes cast by electronic voting machines -- People For the American Way Foundation is calling for the immediate establishment of voter-verifiable audit trails in Florida to ensure that every vote will count, and can be recounted if necessary.
This is almost surreal. One day the Secretary of States office argues in court that the voting machines are so reliable they shouldnt be used in a recount. The next day, the Florida Republican Party is telling voters that electronic voting machines cannot be trusted in a recount. Its like a recurring nightmare, said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). This is one more example of disturbing cynicism and hypocrisy, and one more reason to sound a red alert about Floridas readiness for this years elections.
The latest revelation comes in a St. Petersburg Times story, which reveals that the Florida Republican Party has cited the machines inability to verify votes during a recount as a reason for Republican voters to request and vote with paper absentee ballots. It comes on the heels of news reports documenting that 2002 primary election data was irretrievably lost from voting machines in Miami-Dade during computer crashes, and reports of machines with undervoting rates as high as eight percent.
Neas urged Florida officials to take immediate steps to establish voter-verifiable audit trails as the standard for voting machines in the state. Neas said the system must allow the opportunity for voters to review their ballots before they leave the polling place and ask for assistance if their votes were recorded in error, as well as provide a verifiable means to recount all votes cast in the election, whether through early voting, absentee voting, electronic voting machines, punch cards, paper ballots or other means.
Neas also urged the Jeb Bush administration to abandon the administrative rule that electronic voting machine tallies be excluded from recounts ordered under state law. The ACLU and People For the American Way Foundation are among the groups that have filed a legal challenge against the rule. The state should drop its legal resistance immediately and work with local election officials to make the August 31 primary as fair and accountable as possible.
We must act now to ensure a fair election in Florida, so voters of every party can vote with confidence, said Sharon Lettman-Pacheco, PFAWFs national field director for the nonpartisan Election Protection program. The voting problems of the 2000 election still haunt our state and nation. We all deserve better.