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Florida ballot terminals favor Republicans

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Florida voters using electronic ballot machines are having persistent problems choosing Democrats in early elections, the Miami Herald reports.

The touch-screen gizmos seem strangely attracted to Republican candidates. One voter needed assistance from an election official, and even then, needed three tries to convince the machine that he wanted to vote for Democrat Jim Davis in the gubernatorial race, not his Republican opponent Charlie Crist.

Another voter who went Democrat across the board kept finding Republicans listed in the summary screen. He made repeated attempts until, finally, the machine registered his votes correctly, and he cast his ballot.

Yet another frustrated voter who complained of difficulties selecting a Democrat was told that the machine she was using had been troublesome. Poll workers fiddled with it for a bit, and then it seemed to work properly.

Apparently, this happens all the time. According to the Herald, "Broward County Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said it's not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot - essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-worker's manual."

Well that's a relief. Only we have to wonder, if the screens "slip out of sync," might other components do so as well? And why are poll workers permitted to fiddle with the machines?

Unfortunately, the article tells us little. It sounds as if the machines are of poor quality, but the paper neglects to mention the manufacturer(s) responsible for them. The elections supervisor's spokesperson seems altogether too comfortable with the notion that the machines are unreliable. 'They do that all the time?'

With early elections already underway, it looks as if Florida will again be in the headlines for the wrong reasons, as it so often is. ®

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