Groups Sue Florida Over Voting Machines Rule

No one wants to think about another election recount, but a new rule by the Department of State prohibits a vote by vote recount on electronic machines. It's already prompted a legal challenge and calls for a tangible paper trail.

Sixteen Florida counties have new touch screen voting machines. The rest read paper ballots with an optical scan. State law requires recounts when elections are close, but the Department of State has a rule which says vote by vote recounts are not allowed on the electronic machines. Because of that the ACLU and others have filed an administrative challenge.

Alma Gonzalez of the Voter Protection Coalition says, "We believe that undermines the integrity of the election process; we believe it eliminates transparency."

By prohibiting the recounts, the groups say it will be impossible to uncover malfunctioning machines or outright fraud.

John Ausman, a computer expert, says, "The United States Supreme Court as you know last time stopped the re-balloting in Florida because of equal protection, you are only trying to count the ballots in certain counties, not all counties."

Each time issues like this have come up Jeb Bush has called them politically motivated with the intent of undermining voter confidence in the system.

"I had some doubts about the ACLU sincerity. Occasionally they seem to be partisan in their points of view," says Gov. Bush.

But the ACLU says that what’s good for one party should be good for the other.

Larry Spalding of the ACLU says, "It would be just as wrong for the machines to malfunction in a democratic area in Dade County as it would be to malfunction in a republican area in Palm Beach County."

The suit isn’t likely to be settled before the August primary but the coalition believes if it wins, changes to the electronic systems could be made before November.

The coalition wants a paper trail on each ballot cast or some other monitoring to insure accuracy. It believes a cost effective system could be implemented by November.