Electoral Disfunction

Controversy is swirling around the issue of whether electronic machines should produce a verifiable paper trail, and the issue is likely to be settled in court.

If an election problem occurs this year, questions are now being asked if voters in one county will be treated differently than voters in another. Fifteen counties use electronic touch screens, 52 use optical scans. The state has published a binding opinion that says touch screens do not need to print out copies of under votes.

State Sen. Anna Cowin withdrew a controversial amendment that would have made it illegal to print out the electronic ballots.

"I don't know that it's necessary because just like when you type up the story and then print it out on paper it doesn't change the story much," says Cowin.

The issue of creating a paper trail is far from over. Democrats believe it's the only way to make sure that all the votes are counted.

Rep. Anne Gannon is pushing for a paper trail.

"It would be just like balancing your checkbook where you take your checks and look at your statement and you actually audit those to ensure that they are the same," says Gannon.

Legal problems could be ahead for the state. Treating a recount differently from county to county was why the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the recounts during the 2000 election.

Supervisor Ion Sancho uses optical scan technology. He thinks electronic machines should have the same procedure to double check votes.

"For touch screen voting systems that same level of verification is not provided does raise some possibilities," Sancho says.

And like 2000, it will likely be the federal courts that decide if Florida's election process is legal. The question is whether that happens before or after November.

Electronic touch screens are used in fewer than one fourth of the counties in Florida.