Florida Elections — 2002


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| Chapter 8 — Voting Problems In The 2002 Elections |

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Wellington candidate sues, seeks new vote

Elections chief refuses to test vote machines

How to vote in one easy step — use chisel, tablet by Dave Barry

Elections are scarier than a terrorist threat

Democrats are blaming Gov. Jeb Bush

Broward County discovers glitch in election

Florida's Broward County finds 100,000 lost votes — results unchanged

Bay County Democrat wins hand recount by 139

Voting machines in 2002 primary criticized, report says Miami-Dade County misled by ES&S

Trilingual ballots

Cost unknown

No upgrades


Wellington candidate sues, seeks new vote


by Meghan Meyer

© 2002 Palm Beach Post

Tuesday, April 9, 2002 —Armed with affidavits from 11 voters who said they had problems using the new touch-screen machines in Wellington's village council runoff, Councilman Al Paglia filed a lawsuit Friday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court contesting his loss in the March 26 election.

Paglia lost to Lizbeth Benacquisto by four votes in an election that also registered 78 undervotes — voters who used the machine but did not register a vote. Paglia and his lawyers said faulty machines might have foiled voters' attempts to cast their ballots for him, and they' re asking for a new election.

"We believe that valid votes were rejected, which more than likely would have changed the results," attorney Charlotte Danciu said. Danciu's father, former Boca Raton Mayor Emil Danciu, filed a similar suit after he lost the March 12 election for that city's commission. His lawsuit is pending.

Paglia sued Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, the county and Wellington canvassing boards, and Benacquisto. The suit alleges that the election results are in doubt because poll workers weren't properly trained and voters couldn't cast their ballots in secret. And the machines malfunctioned, prevented the disabled and Spanish-speakers from voting, and didn't provide paper receipts, the suit said.

Paglia has spent his time since the election soliciting voters' tales of trouble at the polls. He took out newspaper ads, conducted a phone campaign, held a meeting and sent out mass e-mails. In the affidavits, voters said they weren't allowed to vote in secrecy, the screens didn't register a vote when they touched it, and that the machine froze, wouldn't let them choose between English or Spanish, and spit out their activation cards. Joseph Naulty, who is blind and partially deaf, said poll workers had to guide his hand to the correct button because the machines didn't accommodate the visually impaired. He wants a machine with raised buttons he can feel, instead of the flat buttons on the machine he used in the Wellington election.

"I don't like this machine," Naulty said. "I think it should be dumped. It doesn't meet my needs and it violates my rights."

Danciu said these problems should have been worked out earlier instead of making the municipal elections a test run for the new machines.

"This was a very important race to voters in the city of Wellington," she said. "It deserves no less respect and preparation than the other races."

Benacquisto takes her oath of office at tonight's council meeting. Paglia said he plans to go to the meeting to speak during the public comment period. He said he still plans to stay involved in public life if his lawsuit does not yield a new election, and doesn't think protesting this election will adversely affect his political future.

"I'm not worried about that," Paglia said. "I think people will vote for Al Paglia based on what he stands for, not on this."


Elections chief refuses to test vote machines


by Jennifer Peltz Staff Writer,

© 2002 Sun Sentinel

April 26, 2002 — Danciu and Al Paglia have sued, seeking replays of the voting. They cite touch-screen voters who said they feared their votes were not recorded properly because, at least initially, the machines didn't respond to their touch, seemed to select the wrong name, or needed adjusting.

Outside experts don't need to examine Palm Beach County's new touch-screen voting machines, says Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore.

Emil Danciu, of Boca Raton, and Al Paglia, of Wellington — who suspect the new machines cost them victory in recent local elections — wanted the devices scrutinized by independent electronics specialists.

But in a letter on LePore's behalf, Assistant County Attorney Leon St. John said the elections chief considered that kind of review "not appropriate, nor necessary."

The machines have passed "rigorous" state and federal tests, St. John wrote. LePore has added that the machines were tested locally before making their debut in city elections this winter.

St. John also rejected another suggestion: making the touch-screen machines spit out a receipt for voters to keep as a record. He said the receipts would compromise ballot secrecy and be impossible to verify for a recount.

"The supervisor of elections has confidence in the accuracy of these voting machines," St. John wrote in the letter dated Wednesday and delivered to county commissioners Thursday.

Palm Beach County bought the $14.4 million touch-screen system last year. The state Legislature outlawed the previous punch-card machines after the 2000 presidential election put "hanging chads" into the nation's vernacular.

Officials hoped the touch-screen system would reduce confusion and disputes. [For $14.4 million one would hope for better results.]

But Danciu and Paglia have sued, seeking replays of the voting. They cite touch-screen voters who said they feared their votes were not recorded properly because, at least initially, the machines didn't respond to their touch, seemed to select the wrong name, or needed adjusting.


Jennifer Peltz can be reached at jpeltz@sun-sentinel.com or 561-832-2905.


How to vote in one easy step — use chisel, tablet by Dave Barry


© 2002 Miami Herald and wire service sources

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

Friday, September 13, 2002 — The question you're asking yourself is: Does South Florida contain the highest concentration of morons in the entire world? Or just in the United States?

The reason you're asking this, of course, is South Florida's performance in Tuesday's [September 10, 2002] election. This election was critical to our image, because of our performance in the 2000 presidential election — the one that ended up with the entire rest of the nation watching, impatiently, as clumps of sleep-deprived South Florida election officials squinted at cardboard ballots, trying to figure out what the hell the voters were thinking when they apparently voted for two presidents, or no presidents, or part of a president, or, in some cases, simply drooled on the ballot.

Before it was over, we had roughly 23 million lawyers down here — nearly a quarter of the nation's lawyer supply — filing briefs and torts and arguing in endless televised hearings, until finally the whole mess wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared George W. Bush the winner, but only because it would have been unconstitutional to apply the more logical remedy, which would be to kick Florida out of the union. We were a national joke. The phrase "Florida voter" became a standard comedy-routine synonym for "idiot."

And thus there was a lot of pressure on Florida, and particularly South Florida, to redeem itself in Tuesday's election. We knew that we could not afford to repeat the 2000 fiasco, and our election officials had more than a year and a half to develop, and test, a voting procedure that even we could not screw up.

So what did our election officials do? Let's examine the problem, and two possible solutions:


THE PROBLEM: Voters had trouble understanding a balloting system that required them to punch holes in a piece of cardboard.

SOLUTION A: Use an even simpler system.

SOLUTION B: Use a more complicated system.


Pretty much any life form with a central nervous system, including a reasonably bright squid, would choose Solution A. So naturally our election officials went with Solution B. Yes. Having seen that South Florida voters — people who have yet to figure out how an automobile turn signal works — were baffled by pieces of cardboard, our leaders decided to confront them with...computers! And we all know how easy it is to figure out unfamiliar computer systems! That's why the expression: "As easy as figuring out an unfamiliar computer system" is so common.

So Miami-Dade County spent $24.5 million on 7,200 computerized voting machines. Broward spent $17.2 million on 5,200 of the same machines. The particular model that we bought is called the iVotronic.


TIP FOR CONSUMERS: Never buy a product whose manufacturer does not understand the basic rules of capitalization.

But confronting voters with unfamiliar machines does not, by itself, ensure that your election will be a mess. No, to GUARANTEE failure, you need to take additional precautions, such as:

(1) Not training poll workers adequately;

(2) Providing confusing instructions;

(3) Not having enough technical support;

(4) Changing the voting-machine software at the last minute.

We managed to make all of these mistakes, and more, which is why today, days later, we are still not 100 percent certain which candidates won on Tuesday. I would not completely rule out Pat Buchanan.

And so once again, South Florida is making life easy for Leno and Letterman. What is the solution? How can we avoid being international laughingstocks in the next election?

My suggestion — call me crazy — is that we print the ballot on paper, with a box next to each candidate's name. We instruct the voters to put an X in their candidate's box. Then we have human beings count the X's, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

I realize this is a radical system, but I believe that it would be difficult for even South Floridians to screw it up.

We could get our elections over within a single day, like everybody else, and we would have more time to enjoy the pleasures of South Florida.

Such as scuba diving. On our new artificial reef.

Formed by 12,400 iVotronics.


Elections are scarier than a terrorist threat by Lucy Morgan


© 2002 by Lucy Morgan, St. Petersburg Times

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

September 14, 2002 — Once again we get a civics lesson — at our expense.

With the Florida election under a microscope for obvious reasons, officials in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have gone over the edge this time.

Could we look more stupid?

Years ago I covered a judge who frequently took judicial notice of the Dade County exception to life.

The lawyer who stood before him and cited a Dade County legal precedent was in instant trouble. The court didn't recognize anything decided in Dade County. Changing the name to Miami-Dade hasn't helped. It's still the same place.

This week Secretary of State Jim Smith was citing the Miami- Dade and Broward exception to normal elections.

Sixty-five Florida counties got it right. Two flunked the test. Unfortunately the two counties that flunked have almost 2-million voters.

Legislators have often joked about cutting a ditch around the area and floating it off into the ocean. Earlier this year [Florida state] Senator Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, suggested we give Miami- Dade to Congress and make it the 17th largest state in the union.

On Friday, Rep. Jerry Melvin, R-Fort Walton Beach, said there is so much corruption in Dade County that the state should take over the entire government.

"We in Florida cannot continue to stand by and let Dade and Broward (and sometimes Palm Beach) counties make us the laughing stock of the entire world," Melvin said.

Rep. Marco Rubio, D-Coral Gables, fired back with a letter noting that four of the five county commissioners in Escambia County were recently thrown out of office and charged with crimes.

Melvin, in a letter to the governor, suggested the problems in South Florida are caused by a society steeped in Haitian and Cuban ways. Rubio responded by noting the greatness of a country where "people like you can spew all the hatred they want without going to jail."

Democrats are blaming Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Republicans are suggesting that the Democrats knew trouble was coming in those South Florida counties and let it happen because they wanted Tampa lawyer Bill McBride to win.

Once again there is probably enough blame in this situation to go around.

Few people realize how much control is in the hands of the 67 people who serve as elections supervisors. When we elect judges, we require that they at least have law degrees and a certain amount of experience. There is no such requirement for elections supervisors.

In some counties, poll workers got as many as 12 hours training on the new equipment. In Broward County, they got two hours. That alone could spell the difference.

The latest debacle is leading some officials to suggest a more centralized voting system that would not be so dependent on the abilities of each county's elections supervisor. Secretary of State Jim Smith isn't ready to go that far — yet. He fears there might be unintended consequences from it.

But it is clear something has to be done. Something dramatic.

Floridians who show up at the polls should certainly be able to vote and walk away with the belief that their vote would actually be counted.

If this wasn't so tragic, it would be funny.

Somehow it seemed fitting that we would be juggling this election uproar around now-disproved reports of a terrorist plot to destroy something in Miami, a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, all happening on Friday the 13 th .

As if to prove my point, Tim Moore, director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, was asked Friday at the end of a news conference on the alleged terrorists if he had also been asked to help unscramble the state's election problems.

"No," Moore told reporters. "I'd rather work with terrorists than the supervisors of elections."

Such a wonderful state. Where else could all these things get blended together into the great stew that comes out in your daily newspaper every day?

At least we can't ever complain that life in Florida is dull.


Broward County discovers glitch in election


© 2002 Associated Press

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

More than 100,000 ballots were not added to the total vote count.

November 08. 2002, Tallahassee — State elections officials on Thursday had to explain what appeared to be another election foul-up reminiscent of the 2000 debacle.

Broward County officials appeared to discover more than 100,000 ballots, which they said was a "minor software thing."

State Elections Director Ed Kast explained Thursday that the glitch involved only the count of how many total ballots were cast and had no effect on ballots being counted for each candidate.

Essentially, the county received absentee ballots and counted them for various candidates - but didn't add some of them to the count of total votes cast, making turnout appear very low, Kast said.

They discovered the error before turning in the official results Thursday and corrected it.

"The Broward County canvassing board did an excellent job as they caught and corrected this discrepancy even before they submitted that county's first set of unofficial returns," said David Host, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jim Smith, who oversees elections.

Even now, the results aren't final. Counties have until Nov. 16 to double-check their count and submit final results.


Florida's Broward County finds 100,000 lost votes — results unchanged


© 2002 Associated Press

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

November 08. 2002, Fort Lauderdale, Florida — In yet another Florida election blunder, officials in Broward County misplaced more than 100,000 ballots cast in this week's election.

Officials said the amended totals did not change the result of any races.

The county elections office discovered 103,222 votes Wednesday that had not been counted although officials had said 100 percent of the precincts were included in Tuesday night's results.

"It's another screw-up, and I'm not satisfied this is correct," Broward Republican leader George Lemieux said.

Two years ago, dimpled and hanging chads in Broward's punch card ballots helped hold up the presidential election of George W. Bush for five weeks. More problems cropped up earlier this year, when difficulties with Florida's expensive new voting machines delayed results from the Democratic gubernatorial primary for a week.

After the primary, Broward spent at least $2.5 million to make things right.

Broward deputy elections supervisor Joe Cotter called Tuesday's mistake "a minor software thing."

"Once we realized it, we took the proper steps to fix it," he said.

The missing ballots helped explain why Broward's original numbers showed that just 34.5 percent of the county's registered voters went to the polls. Wednesday's revised numbers said that 441,198 Broward residents actually voted, or 45.1 percent.

Statewide, 53 percent of all voters went to the polls Tuesday.


Bay County Democrat wins hand recount by 139


© 2002 Miami Herald

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.


Wednesday, November 13, 2002, Panama City, Florida (AP) — Democrats finally won a Florida election recount, though the time spent tallying votes and the stakes were much lower than the presidential recount two years ago.

George Gainer was elected a Bay County commissioner by 139 votes out of nearly 50,000 cast. Republican Robert Wright conceded after a hand recount of overvotes and undervotes Monday, six days after the election.

That compares to the five-week recount that Republican George W. Bush won by 537 voters over Democrat Al Gore to take Florida and the 2000 presidential election.

"We proved the system worked," said Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen.

The U.S. Supreme Court halted a similar statewide recount before it could be finished in the presidential election.

Also unlike the 2000 recount, both Bay candidates peered over the ballots as election officials tried to determine voter intent.

Bay County uses an optical scan voting system — voters pencil in a mark next to their candidates' names on a paper ballot, which are then fed into a machine and counted.

"I owe everyone in the county a great gratitude and I expect to spend four years paying it," Gainer said.

Gainer's Election Day lead of 211 votes fell to 149 votes when 1,422 absentee and provisional ballots were counted the next day, triggering an automatic recount.

Election officials reran nearly 50,000 ballots through voting machines. Gainer's lead again narrowed to 128.

Machines failed to pick up all ballots the second time, meaning some were rejected as overvotes or undervotes. Wright requested a hand recount of those ballots. The count gave Gainer 24,140 votes to Wright's 24,001.


Voting machines in 2002 primary criticized, report says Miami-Dade County misled by ES&S by Karl Ross


© 2003 by Karl Ross, Miami Herald

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

Thursday, May 8, 2003 — The company that sold Miami-Dade the touch-screen voting machines used in the disastrous 2002 primary election misled county officials about the equipment and delivered goods that were "hardly state-of-the-art technology," according to an inspector general's report obtained Wednesday by The Herald.

The draft report by the county inspector general's [IG] office following a seven-month investigation provides a critical account of the process leading to the $25 million purchase of a voting system that was expected to lead to trouble-free elections. Instead, the Sept. 10, 2002, election — a national black eye for Miami-Dade — was plagued with problems caused in part by the lengthy start-up time for the machines.

The machines' manufacturer, Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software [ES&S], branded the IG's report as "factually inaccurate and unenlightened" in a response it filed with the county clerk's office late Wednesday.

Inspector General Christopher Mazzella could not be reached. The county's outgoing Elections Supervisor David Leahy, reached at home, declined comment.

The report says ES&S's sales team "conveniently left out" critical information about its product's capabilities and breached the terms of its contract. Even so, the IG's office recommends county elections officials keep the equipment.

"We have to learn to make do with what we have," the report concludes. "Surely there will be upgrades to the system. However, [county] management should not be led blindly down the path of education by a vendor who turned the 2002 Miami-Dade County elections into a beta test."

The term "beta test" is one used in the computer industry about a product released on a trial basis and circulated among experts to iron out the kinks. The report urged county officials to "cut the proverbial umbilical cord" with paid ES&S consultants and assemble a team of election workers with comparable expertise who can run the system on Election Day.

None of the IG's four other recommendations involved ES&S. They called for improving poll worker recruitment, paying poll workers for training, developing a nucleus of county employees to assist poll workers and synchronizing municipal elections, which are now spread throughout the year.

In its defense, ES&S claims it met or exceeded every requirement in the county's bid specifications. Delays in turning on the iVotronic machines that bedeviled poll workers the day of the September 10 election were the result of human error or poor decision-making by county elections officials, the company says [blame the victim].

A company spokesman, Miguel De Grandy, said ES&S carried out the county's requests faithfully.

Trilingual ballot


"ES&S designed and certified what no company had ever certified in Florida before, a trilingual ballot," De Grandy said. "If the September primary was 'beta test' for that technology, it's because that's the way the county asked us to do it."

The lengthy "boot-up time" required to open each voting terminal — about six minutes in most cases — "was a direct result of choices the county made subsequent to the delivery and acceptance of the system," ES&S says in its response.

The crux of the controversy is the trilingual ballot that Leahy insisted be available on each of the machines used on Election Day. County ballots are printed in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

As the IG's office sees it:

ES&S representatives failed to tell members of the county's selection committee that in order to produce a trilingual ballot, the firm would have to supplement the iVotronic's internal memory with a memory chip or "flash card."

The use of this flash card vastly complicated the task of preparing the voting machines and overburdened their Intel 386 EX microprocessors. The flash cards are identified as the "root cause" of the lengthy boot-ups in the report.

The report further states that reliance on the flash cards led to hidden costs for the county, as a last-minute purchase of 3,600 cards cost more than $130,000.

Cost unknown


"These costs were unknown and undisclosed to county staff at the time of the initial procurement," the report states.

ES&S sees it differently:

Company representatives say they delivered a trilingual ballot to Leahy for inspection on May 7, 2002, 10 days before its contractual deadline. They say that version, compacted into two columns to save memory, was rejected because Leahy felt it was reminiscent of Palm Beach County's ill-fated butterfly ballot.

That version could have been booted up in about half the time of the single-column version finally approved by county elections officials. Leahy's decision forced ES&S to seek state certification on its revised ballot, a process that lasted until mid-August and forced elections officials to retrain some poll workers.

ES&S says its recommended solution to the county was simpler and could have dramatically reduced set-up times at the polls: to provide machines with Creole language ballots only in the 60 precincts with Haitian voters. Those ballots would have been loaded onto machines with ballots in Creole as well as English.

Voting machines with ballots in only two languages don't require the flash cards and can be booted up in a minute and one half.

"This type of deployment would be no different than the method of machine deployment in partisan elections where some equipment is designated for Republicans and other machines for Democrats," ES&S responds.

ES&S further notes there was no requirement in the county's bid documents calling for a specific boot-up time, trilingual ballot format or microprocessor capability.

The IG's report contends the 386 microprocessor built into the iVotronics is too slow to meet the demands of the trilingual ballot, citing the opinions of the Center for Democracy and the Miami-Dade Police Department. Both were involved in the more successful November 5 general election, the center as observers and the police as logistical support.

"The machines the county purchased are hardly state-of-the-art technology," the report says.

No upgrades


The report notes the 386 microprocessor cannot be upgraded to a more powerful type, such as those found on most personal computers, because they are embedded in the machines and soldered onto the motherboard, "making it virtually impossible to replace."

ES&S counters by saying the microprocessor is built into the iVotronic so that it can withstand the rigors of being lugged to and from the polls. The company says the 386 is "industry standard," and using a more powerful microprocessor "would have sacrificed in the areas of cost, battery life, temperature and stability with no benefit."

ES&S says the IG's comparison with home PC's illustrates the investigators' "technological ignorance" and dismisses the criticisms of the Center for Democracy and police by saying their opinions on technology "should be viewed with trepidation."



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| Chapter 8 — Voting Problems In The 2002 Elections |

| Next — The Re-Election of Jim Crow: How Jeb Bush's Team Is Trying to Steal Florida Again |

| Back — Technician's Error, Not Machines, To Blame in Miami-Dade County, Florida, Election Mix-Up |


Last modified 6/14/09