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Florida Hopes to Get It Right in Primary Ballot

Aug 29, 2004
By Michael Christie

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida, which held up the results of the 2000 presidential election by more than a month, holds a primary this week that many regard as a test of the state's readiness to avoid another fiasco in November.

The Aug. 31 primary election will pick candidates for President Bush's Republicans and the Democrats for federal, local, judicial, state and federal posts, including the hotly contested seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, which could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

But activists and analysts say most poll watchers will be focused on whether Florida can get it right this time, and carry out a ballot in which every vote counts.


Many of the state's counties have worked hard, and spent big bucks, to try to ensure a smooth election this year. Computer-based touch-screen voting machines have replaced punch cards in 15 of the state's most populous counties.



The touch-screen machines also got bad publicity because of problems in a 2002 gubernatorial primary and concerns about software bugs and possible manipulation.

The fact that there will be no hard-copy backups of touch-screen votes has further undermined public confidence and prompted a rush for paper absentee ballots.


Miami-Dade election officials have mailed off 49,299 absentee ballots compared with 17,228 before the 2000 primary, said spokesman Seth Kaplan.


Douglas Jones, who teaches computer science at the University of Iowa, was called in by Miami-Dade to fix some glitches in its computers.

Although he remains opposed to the technology until it is accompanied by an auditable paper trail, Jones believes the machines will now do the job.

"On the other hand, the whole world is looking at Miami, so they may find problems. That means that even if it's the best election they ever run, we might not know it," he said.

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