Touch Screen Voting Controversy Continues

Several voting rights advocates are asking the state to overturn a rule banning manual recounts of the touch-screen machines.

Sharon Pacheco-Lettman says touchscreen voting machines should have a paper trail. She’s a member of People for the American Way, one of several groups suing to force Florida officials to scrap a rule that prevents manual recounts, or audits, of touchscreen voting machines.

"To even think that you’re not going to put an audit trail is almost ridiculous." But the Secretary of State says people don’t seem to understand you don’t need a manual recount on touch-screen machines. The machine records exactly what the voter wants to do.

State Elections Chief Dawn Roberts says the problems Florida saw with its paper ballots don’t exist with a touchscreen. “When you do a manual recount, it’s only going to be on over-votes and under-votes. You cannot over-vote on a touchscreen and an under-vote is simply going to state, no vote cast.”

Court the recount question is being considered by an administrative hearing judge. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Howard Simon was one of the people testifying against the state’s rule. Simon grew frustrated when the state’s lawyer tried to make the case that you wouldn’t know with a touchscreen whether the machine malfunctioned or a voter deliberately chose not to cast a vote.

“I might know that if state elections officials would get off their duff and allow the supervisors to do an audit.”

The state insists such an audit wouldn’t show anything. But it’s now up to the judge to decide whether to throw out the rule blocking touchscreen recounts. The administrative hearing judge has up to 50 days to issue a ruling on whether the state can ban recounts of touchscreen machines.

The general election is now less than 100 days away.