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Coalition: Some Election Improvements But Still Problems at the Polls

November 5, 2008

While Election Day in Florida went more smoothly at the polls than expected, the state's Election Protection Coalition is asking lawmakers to take time during the next state legislative session, to address some voting-related problems.

The group's biggest concern is the persistent reports from precincts around the state that the new optical scanner voting machines jammed. The system is designed so that a voter can correct any problems found when the ballot is scanned; however, when the machines jam, the ballot is put aside to scan at the end of the day. Muslima Lewis, director of ACLU Florida's Voting Rights Project, says this raises some concerns.

"You don't necessarily know if the votes will be counted because, if there is an error on that ballot, they would have had an opportunity to correct it. That opportunity is lost, so those votes are potentially lost."

League of Women Voters' Vice President Terry Coble points out that, with Florida's election history, even a small glitch must be resolved.

"Every vote does count ,and very close elections can be decided on just a few votes, so to the extent that it is being reported throughout the state, that's noteworthy."

The Election Protection Coalition ran a voter hotline, fielding reports that included a large number of provisional ballot issues, missing pages from ballots, and one county with double-printed amendments. While many polling places reported no problems - at least partly the result of more than 4 million people having voted early - others reported waiting lines of up to three hours. Coble calls that "unacceptable."

"If we, as a country, want every voter to participate in our democracy, then we need to have sufficient precincts, sufficient ways of allowing people to vote, and time off to vote."

Florida Secretary of State Browning says every vote counts in the Sunshine State, and that the Election Day problems were minimal, considering the high turnout.

Gina Presson/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - FL