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E-Vote Machine Flaw Could Prevent Any Florida Recount

June 13, 2004|From Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Touch-screen voting machines in 11 counties have a software flaw that could make manual recounts impossible in November's presidential election, state officials said Saturday.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state called the problems "minor technical hiccups" that could be resolved, but critics alleged voting officials wrongly certified a voting system they knew had a bug.

The electronic voting machines are a response to Florida's 2000 presidential election fiasco, where thousands of punch-card ballots were improperly marked. But the new machines have brought concerns that errors could go unchecked without paper records of the electronic voting.

The machines, made by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., fail to provide a consistent electronic "event log" of voting activity when asked to reproduce what happened in the election, state officials said.

Officials with the company and the state Division of Elections said they thought they could fix the problem by linking the voting equipment with laptop computers. Florida's two largest counties -- Miami-Dade and Broward -- are among those affected by the flaws.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) has asked state Atty. Gen. Charlie Crist to investigate whether the head of the state elections division lied under oath when he recently denied knowing of the computer problem. A spokeswoman for Crist said he was reviewing the request.

The elections chief, Ed Kast, abruptly resigned Monday, saying he wanted a change of pace.

Wexler and the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a citizens group, said they wanted to know how the state could be sure glitches would not prevent elections officials from even detecting computer malfunctions.

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