As most Americans sat in front of the TV stunned by the ‘hanging chad’ controversy surrounding the 36-day Florida recount in the 2000 elections, one question seemed to be constantly looming over their heads: ‘How could this have happened?’
Of course there were multiple reasons as to why there needed to be a recount, but regardless, the Administration and the American people had a common understanding that something needed to be done to ensure that we wouldn’t fall victim to this historic fallout again.
Whenever there’s a will there’s a way. In an effort to avoid having to undergo another recount, Gov. Jeb Bush announced a new voting system that he dubbed ‘a model for the rest of the nation.’
The touch-screen voting method that debuted in the March 2004 primary election, seemed to offer a no-hassle way to ensure that all votes were properly accounted for. In a technology-friendly age, officials in Florida were receptive to the idea.
However, two serious problems will continue to perpetuate as Super Tuesday grows closer: the absence of a paper trail and a known glitch in the software. As much as we depend on technology, one serious bug in the system could very well cause a repeat of the 2000 catastrophe. A recent analysis by a South Florida-based newspaper The Sun-Sentinel, asserted that touch-screen machines in South Florida failed to record votes six times more often than optical-scan machines in the March presidential primary.
Currently, the state of Florida does not require these machines to be backed up by any sort of manual recount, causing some democrats and voting rights groups to sue for the availability of printed records. Equally troubling is the fact that Gov. Bush supports the use of these machines while they are in such an unrefined state.
How then, can we have confidence in the system? The onset of an even slightly botched election protocol could signal another disaster in the one state that will be under every voter’s watchful eye in 15 days.
We should certainly be open to better alternatives than paper voting if they can prove to be more efficient. Yet, at the same time, certain steps must be taken to ensure that the process is foolproof before it goes into effect. By not requiring a paper trail of votes, any likelihood of a computer crash or glitch in the system could jeopardize the entire outcome of the election.
Furthermore, lawmakers’ decision to pass over recommendations to make the positions of county elections supervisors nonpartisan will also lead to more scrutiny if there is a discrepancy in ballots.
If lawmakers decide that e-voting will provide a more efficient and user-friendly way to count votes then it should, by all means, be implemented. However, if we fail to recognize problems early on we are only setting ourselves up for another disaster. If this country is based on democracy, then we have to do everything in our power to uphold the rights of citizens assuring them that their vote will count next month.
It is unfortunate that such an inaccurate and unrefined method of voting will be used next month. So much more could have been done to prevent such a corruption of the democratic process as occured in Florida four years ago.
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