Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Despite law, some elections officials want to keep touch screen voting for disabled

TALLAHASSEE — When Gov. Charlie Crist signed the law in 2007 that abolished touch screen voting in Florida, one exception remained.

Despite the machines' reputation for untrustworthiness, they would stay online through the 2012 elections for voters who are blind or have other physical disabilities.

By then, it was hoped, Florida would bless a paper ballot system accessible to the disabled, and touch screens would finally be a relic of elections past, like dimpled chad.

But now that 2012 is approaching, elections supervisors want to keep using touch screens for four more years, through 2016, or the next two presidential elections.

It looks like the Legislature is about to grant their wish, much to the frustration of Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the state's chief elections official.

The reason: money.

"The counties are hurting, and we're just asking to push this off," said Susan Gill, elections supervisor in Citrus County.

Counties say it will cost them $35 million to replace those touch screens. That's not counting the mountain of debt they're still paying from the now-discarded, pricey electronic units that were supposed to be the long-term replacement for punch card voting.

"It is a significant amount of money, obviously, in this economic climate," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who until recently chaired the Senate elections panel.

Browning, a former Pasco County elections supervisor, was once a leading advocate of touch screen voting. He says it's ironic that he now chides counties for seeking to continue using touch screens, which provide audio ballots to blind voters who wear headphones.

"They're whining," Browning said of elections supervisors. "They've known this law has been on the books since 2007, and they will have had five years to comply with this change."

Pinellas and Hillsborough are two of the four counties that use AutoMARK, the only approved paper ballot system in Florida that is accessible to the disabled. (The other two are Sarasota and Duval.) AutoMARK is owned by ES&S, the nation's biggest vendor of voting equipment.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the four-year delay, noting that voters with disabilities have waited long enough already to get the same paper ballot security that other voters enjoy.

"I would urge you not to leave a portion of our community behind. This is a civil rights issue. It's a matter of equal treatment under the law," Courtney Strickland of the ACLU told the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

According to a statewide survey by elections supervisors, 18,000 voters used disability equipment in 2008.

But some groups that speak for the disabled support the four-year extension. They don't like the AutoMARK system; they want one that allows disabled citizens to vote unassisted.

"It is our opinion that there is not now on the market a voting device for marking paper ballots that meets the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (or) the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Jim Dickson of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

The four-year delay on replacing touch screens is tucked inside the Department of State's must-pass elections bill (SB 900).

This could put Crist in a tight spot: Will the governor who was eager to get rid of touch screens bow to the counties' demands for financial relief and let the machines stay in use four more years? Or will he stand by Browning, his handpicked elections expert?

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Despite law, some elections officials want to keep touch screen voting for disabled 03/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In one day, fundraisers appear to reach goal to move Confederate monument from downtown Tampa

    Politics

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners gave an ultimatum Wednesday to people who want to move a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa: Raise the money yourselves or it stays. They had 30 days.

    It took 24 hours.

    Private money is flowing in to help move the Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument from the old county courthouse to a private family cemetery. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Who are the antifa?

    Nation

    On Monday, President Donald Trump capitulated to the popular demand that he distance himself from his comment that "many sides" were to blame in Charlottesville by explicitly denouncing white nationalism. "Racism is evil," he appeared to grudgingly concede, "including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists."

    A group of counterprotesters who identified themselves as antifa, or anti-fascists, rest Saturday during a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. Counterprotesters in Charlottesville came united against white supremacy, but they advocated a wide array of beliefs, tactics and goals. [Edu Bayer | New York Times]
  3. Lucky carrot: Alberta woman finds mother-in-law's lost ring

    Bizarre News

    CAMROSE, Alberta — A Canadian woman who lost her engagement ring 13 years ago while weeding her garden on the family farm is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot.

    In an undated photo provided by Iva Harberg, Mary Grams, 84, holds a carrot that grew through her engagement ring in Alberta, Canada. Grams, who lost her diamond ring 13 years ago while pulling weeds in her garden, is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot. Grams, 84, said she can't believe the vegetable actually grew through and around the diamond engagement ring she had given up for lost. [Iva Harberg/The Canadian Press via AP]
  4. Good luck finding solar eclipse glasses across Tampa Bay, U.S.

    Science

    Andi Figart pulled up to the New Port Richey Library on Thursday morning to an unusual sight.

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: Pairs of free solar eclipse glasses sit on display at a Warby Parker store  on August 11, 2017 in New York City. To view the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21 eye protection is essential. The designer eyeglass store expects to give out thousands of pairs of the glasses before the event.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
  5. Republicans face primary in whirlwind special election for Plant City-area House seat

    Elections

    PLANT CITY — With qualifying completed this week, the field is set in a whirlwind special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City — and the race could come down to two candidates in a Republican primary, Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure.

    Yvonne Fry is one of two Republican candidates with strong Plant City ties to quality for a special election in state House District 58.