News Release

Florida GOP Urging Its Voters to Bypass Touch-Screen Machines as Unreliable


The St. Petersburg Times reported July 29 that the Republican Party of Florida has urged its supporters to use absentee ballots because “new electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote.” The glossy GOP mailing read: “Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today.” The mailing included a tear-off absentee ballot request form with a picture of George W. Bush.

The newspaper also reported that Jeb Bush and state election officials “have repeatedly opposed Democratic moves, in the Legislature and courts, to require a paper trail on the machines.” According to the paper, a spokeswoman for Jeb Bush said that “the governor certainly does not support that message [regarding touch-screen machines]” and that “people need to have confidence in these machines.”

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Supervisor of Elections for Leon County in Florida, Sancho said today: “On March 9, 2004, Florida held the statewide Democratic primary election. On July 11, 2004, the Sun-Sentinel newspaper published a report comparing the percentage of blank voted ballots cast in the 52 optical-scan voting counties versus the 15 touch-screen counties. Their findings: Florida voters in the touch-screen counties cast eight to nine times more blank ballots than optical-scan counties. One out of every 100 touch-screen voters did not have a vote recorded. There is no reasonable explanation for this discrepancy, and when questioned about it the Secretary of State, Florida’s chief elections official, says the voters in the touch-screen counties must have voted this way on purpose.”

Sancho added: “Furthermore, Secretary of State Glenda Hood has attacked anyone who has asked her to examine this data as persons trying to destroy the credibility of Florida’s election system, ignoring her statutory duty under CH. 97.012(3) to ‘actively seek out and collect data and statistics necessary to knowledgeably scrutinize the effectiveness’ of Florida’s elections. Instead of ignoring her legal duty, the Secretary could be defusing a potential second presidential Florida election debacle by informing Florida’s voters that while authorities are studying why touch-screen voters seem to cast so many undervotes, Florida has one of the most convenient mail voting programs in the country, and voters who are not confident of recording their votes on the touch-screen systems may vote by mail.”

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Betty Reed is NAACP Political Action chair of the Hillsborough County Branch of the NAACP and a member of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. She said today: “There is a lot of concern in Florida that we will once again be disenfranchised. We’re worried about the electronic voting machines, since they don’t leave a paper trail that can be verified. We are worried that voter lists will not be accurate and once again we won’t be able to vote. But we will be there on Election Day to vote and to monitor the process as closely as we can to make sure our votes are counted. The events of 2000 had a negative impact especially on young people. When I go out on registration drives many young people decline to register, telling me why bother since their vote isn’t going to count anyway. I believe also that the older generation in the African-American community failed to communicate to the younger generation about the struggle we went through to get the right to vote and the importance of voting. I remember standing in line for three hours just to have a chance to register. I remember watching Medgar Evers’ widow on television the day he was murdered. We still have to keep struggling to make sure our vote counts, every vote counts. People died for that right, black people and white people died for that right, and we cannot grow cynical about it. After all, no matter who you are, what your government does has an effect on you — and you should make your voice heard.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167