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The Miami Herald

Florida shuns paper backup of computer ballots

February 19, 2004
By Michael Vasquez

TALLAHASSEE - It is ''extremely unlikely'' that Florida voters in November will be able to check their machine-vote ballots against a paper printout before leaving the polls, the head of the state's election process told the Legislature on Wednesday.

But the official, Secretary of State Glenda Hood, insisted that voters have every reason to remain confident in electronic voting machines, despite rising worries across the nation that such machines are susceptible to computer hackers who could possibly alter the outcome of an election.

''Florida is no longer haunted by those ghosts of 2000,'' Hood said, referring to the state's infamous chad-filled recount. ``We have every confidence that the machines we have certified are secure against tampering.''


Hood's comments to the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee were followed by a presentation by one of the private companies supplying touch-screen computers to Florida, Sequoia Voting Systems.


... Hood later told The Herald that no touch-screen company has yet obtained the necessary U.S. government approval for its system to be used in an election.

Critics of touch-screen voting say the machines, in their current incarnation, remain less than perfect. University of Iowa Associate Professor Douglas Jones, former chairman of the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems, told The Herald in a phone interview Wednesday that touch-screen machines destroy all proof of original voter intent.


''The best you can view them as is hearsay,'' Jones said. ``The machine says what the vote was.''

Still, Jones advised against a hasty switch-over to untested printout technology for the November election, saying that such a change should be more of a long-term goal.