Palm Beach elections supervisor says
Published Saturday, January 24, 2004
by Dale M. King
No matter how much U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler stomps and screams about the need for paper election ballot receipts, it’s not going to happen this year, said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore.
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“There’s nothing I can do to put the printers on the machines,” she said. “The state legislature prescribes that procedure.” Wexler, a vocal proponent of paper receipts to ensure vote count accuracy and personal accountability, is suing LePore and Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, accusing them of “failing to ensure that Floridians will have their votes recorded accurately” by not providing receipts.
Deferring comments about the suit to her attorney, LePore said she opposes paper receipts for a variety of reasons. There’s the cost of purchasing printers – 6,000 of them for Palm Beach County alone. Poll workers would have to learn to change paper in the machines. And then there’s the question of what language the receipts would be printed in. Already, Palm Beach County ballots are printed in several languages.
The proposed use of paper receipts is also drawing heavy fire from the disabled community, she said. They feel a printed-out document compromises their right of privacy.
In his push for paper receipts, Wexler has pointed to problems with the recent recount in the District 91 House race as reason to provide voters with a paper trail.
In that district that is mainly in Broward County, but includes four precincts in Boca Raton, the eventual winner, Ellyn Bogdanoff, outpolled Oliver Parker by only 12 votes. That triggered an automatic recount.
When elections officials found 134 Broward County ballots that recorded no preference – known as “undervotes” – it triggered concerns.
Bogdanoff went on to win the election. But LePore said it is not unusual for a voter to go to the polls, yet not cast a ballot.
Wexler is moving ahead with his lawsuit. In fact, according to his aide, Lale Mamaux, a hearing is scheduled Monday at 8:45 a.m. in the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach on his request to expedite the case. The matter is to be heard by Judge Karen Miller.
The congressman hasn’t stopped there. In a jump across party lines, Democrat Wexler has written to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush asking him to “correct the inequities that exist in Florida before another national election debacle occurs.”
“Even though touch-screen machines allow voters to review their ballot choices electronically,” Wexler told Bush, “without a final tangible ballot verified by an individual voter, there is no way of knowing if all votes were properly recorded.”
LePore has said the new electronic voting apparatus has redundant memory that prevents inaccurate voting.
But Wexler told Bush that voters are more savvy because of the 2000 presidential election problems in Florida. “All Americans better recognize the importance of being able to conduct fair, accurate and timely recounts. Gov. Bush must insist that voting machines be outfitted with ballot printers.”
LePore said if the legislature changes the law and requires printers, she will comply. But she said she has no money to purchase the equipment.
Having been in Tallahassee this past week, she said she sees nothing in the legislative hopper aimed at requiring printers for voting machines.
And even if the legislature takes action, she said, printers have to be tested several times over before they can be connected.
In the meantime, the 2004 election season has already begun. District 91 and the city of Delray Beach have already held elections. Municipal voting and the Florida Presidential Primary are scheduled for March 9