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New Palm Beach voting machines criticized

The votes are in: Tiger Woods is America's best sports star, apple pie is the nation's favorite dessert, and the embarrassment over the 2000 election debacle won't end any time soon.

The machines that replaced the infamous Palm Beach County butterfly ballots and hanging chads have drawn criticism from their debut in winter elections to a mock election last week that drew 3,800 people.

Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore held the July 15 mock election, allowing voters to cast ballots for their favorite foods, sport stars and Americans, to appease those skeptical of the new technology. But the criticism keeps coming.

U.S. Rep. Richard Wexler, D-Fla., and other members of Congress and county commissioners urged LePore to do a run-through of a county election instead of a mock exercise. He says LePore hasn't learned any lessons from the "calamity that determined the president of the United States."

The $14.4-million voting machines have drawn fire since problems with votes in two municipal elections led losing candidates to file lawsuits and demand recounts. In one runoff race, the machines registered blank ballots for 3 percent of voters.

Rebecca Mercuri, a computer science professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, said the self-auditing machines don't provide voters assurance that their votes are being cast. She said they should provide a printed receipt.

Mercuri said she tried out the machines during the mock election and had to repeatedly press a button before it accepted her vote. But the vast majority of voters reported no problems, though just one-half of one percent of the county's 700,000 registered voters turned out for the practice election.