Tuesday, August 03, 2004

From chad to worse:
Absentee Fla. voting

August 3, 2002

MIAMI - Florida is bracing for another November vote-count mess, where absentee ballots could replace hanging chads in election infamy.

Wary of new ATM-like touch-screen voting machines, officials in both parties are urging people to request paper ballots.

"Nobody trusts Jeb's machines," said Barbara Visno, 64, of Miami at a downtown rally yesterday for Dem veep nominee John Edwards.

After the 2000 recount disaster, Gov. Jeb Bush moved to modernize the state's election system in a bid to restore trust.

But recent reports of the lost, and later found, data from a 2002 primary here has already made the touch-screens suspect.

"What are you going to do? You can't get paranoid about it," said Dem party volunteer Paul Tisevich, 53, of Miami. "But I'm probably going to get an absentee ballot."

"It's easier than going to a bank, which is scary," James Reeder, 40, of Miami said of the touch-screen machines.

The Florida Republican Party had to apologize last week after it sent out flyers warning supporters: "New electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts, order your absentee ballot today."

But absentee ballots come with their own problems, and scrutiny of them could replace scrutiny of the hanging chads as Florida's favorite pastime in the days after the election.

Mark Kornblau, an Edwards spokesman, said the campaign is "very concerned about this" and the Democrats "plan to have teams in place" to monitor the absentee count.