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Report: Mixed Reviews for Florida's Election Readiness

November 4, 2008

From hanging chads to missing absentee ballots and malfunctioning voting machines, Florida has repeatedly been in the national spotlight with its election errors. As election officials deal with an expected record-breaking voter turnout, a recent Common Cause report says Florida may not be ready to handle problems at the polls. The report gave the Sunshine State mixed reviews, praising the return to paper ballots, but rating the state as "inadequate" in two out of four categories checked. Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause Florida, says this could lead to problems for election day.

"There are so many potential problems - anything from long lines to the 'no match, no vote,' to the use of the provisional ballot, to the potential for challenging of voters; all of that adds up to a potential train wreck on election day."

The Common Cause report calls Florida's voter administration inadequate because of an audit law that only requires two percent of the precincts to be reviewed in a dispute. Wilcox says the number of people still voting with electronic voting machines instead of paper ballots is also a problem.

"We know that voters are using these electronic machines, and given the fact that those machines have a high degree of inaccuracy and have caused flawed elections in the past, I think that is a concern."

Wilcox says Common Cause and the Election Protection Coalition have workers and attorneys in all major Florida cities today, to trouble-shoot and to help build voter confidence.

"Voters in Florida already lack confidence in the system because of what has happened in previous elections. It kind o makes voters that much more determined to make sure that their vote counts."

Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who is in charge of elections, says the state is ready, calling Florida’s election problems a thing of the past.

If you experience problems at the polls, you can report them to 1-866-OUR-VOTE, where other voting questions can also be answered.

Gina Presson/Elizabeth Grattan, Public News Service - FL