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Explore all options to safeguard our voting

Did rush to e-vote backfire on state? | Nov. 26

The answer to the question posed in your front-page headline is a resounding "yes."

The League of Women Voters supports only voting systems that are designed to employ a voter-verifiable paper ballot and require routine audits of the paper ballot/record in randomly selected precincts - conducted in every election, with the results published by the jurisdiction.

Optical scan based systems would not be a panacea - any system has its vulnerabilities. Random auditing and transparency should be required of any system in order to verify the functioning of the system and thus earn voter confidence.

Our overall election systems deserve the immediate attention of our elected and appointed officials. They must set aside any past political biases and defensiveness, as the time is now to calmly and methodically explore all solutions. We need to determine a path to ensure that every citizen's right to vote is protected by systems and processes that secure the votes as they are cast. If we begin now, we can make progress in time for the 2008 elections.

Karen Burns, election reform director, League of Women Voters of Florida, Gulfport

Florida can't get it right | Nov. 25

Give us the best system

The 2006 "undervote" in Sarasota County has given Florida another black eye, like the "hanging chads" in 2000. At least undervoting was not blamed on seniors. Small blessing.

But here's what I don't get. We live in a time of mind-boggling technological developments. The capabilities of cell phones defy belief. They can be worn on the ear and there are plans to implant them in human heads. Computers are wireless, more powerful and available on hand-held Blackberries. High-definition plasma TV sets make the early black-and-white sets seem like ancient artifacts.

So why can't we develop a flawless touch screen voting machine? The columnist suggests "all electronic machines should provide verifiable paper trails so real ballots are available in the event of recount." It's embarrassing that we don't have paper trails. He also suggests there should be congressional bipartisan legislation "creating national standards for improving our voting systems." Improving? Make it state of the art.

How hard could it be? Consider that recently I got some cash by touching an ATM screen, paid for groceries at the market by touching a screen, bought some stamps at the post office by touching a screen, and finally, after dropping off my groceries, had a couple of beers at my local pub and watched the bartender touch a screen to get my tab. In every transaction, I got a receipt. It's called "proof of purchase."

Forgive my sarcasm, but maybe we should consult with all our "tech support" in India.

Jack Bray, Dunedin

Sarasota workers to relive Election Day | Nov. 28

Consider voter error

Your article reports that Sarasota election officials are going to verify the electronics of their voting machines. I'm confident that will check out okay.

The problem was that the screen panel that had Democrat Christine Jennings' name on it had the heading of "State" and also had the governor's race. It appears that a lot of people saw the gubernatorial candidates, marked them and moved on.

Each county sets up its screens differently, which accounts for why Sarasota county's vote count was different.

The fact that most voters voted correctly means that there were just a few who didn't pay attention to what they were doing. Whether they used a voting machine or paper ballots, I suspect that these few would still have managed to botch up their vote.

David Brown, Sun City Center

E-voting is easier

I don't have a problem with touch screen voting. There's no paper trail, but I really don't see why one is needed. And as for ballot design, as long as you have a chance to check your vote and edit it before the final, actual vote, ballot design doesn't matter.

Relatively few absentee voters didn't vote for one of the candidates for the House in the 13th Congressional District. That's to be expected: Absentee voters didn't get the nearly 24/7 barrage of nasty campaign ads.

I think touch screen voting is easier than the old punch card system. There were a lot of complaints about the "butterfly ballot" some counties used, but if you can't get your vote right in the first place, reviewing won't help. In the old system, if you needed a new punch card ballot, there was a certain hassle to go through. With the touch screen, you just edit your vote.

All this controversy with the touch screen is just much ado about nothing.

Ernest Lane, Trinity

New option needed, letter | Nov. 22

Added confusion

The letter writer rekindles an old idea for solving the problem of undervotes (as in the Vern Buchanan/Christine Jennings race in Sarasota County): Include on the ballot for each race or proposition the vote option labeled "None of the above."

At first blush, this would seem the perfect remedy. But unless tried, it is uncertain whether or not it would eliminate - or even reduce - "undervotes." Nonetheless, what is certain is that some of the losing candidates and their constituents will be declaring disenfranchisement because "the ballot was confusing."

A.E. Roberts, St. Petersburg

Winn is right man

I am a Florida teacher. If Gov.-elect Charlie Crist were to ask me whom I would prefer to have at the helm of our education system, the answer would be simple: another teacher. I want to know that the person setting policies affecting my profession has actually been in my shoes. And that's just what we have.

Education Commissioner John Winn is a former teacher and key developer of much-needed education reform. As a teacher, I can't tell you how much this means to me and many others. Because of his leadership, Florida's students are finally achieving success. Would the Times have us return to a time when our students' ability to read was abysmal? Now, we have 75 percent of our third-grade students reading successfully. The measures that brought us here took determination and a willingness to say enough is enough - a luxury many elected officials do not have, but that Commissioner Winn embodies and puts to good use.

Election season is over and politics should not be a determining factor in the appointment of the person who manages the most important function in our society. Now is the time to look ahead at the challenges that Gov.-elect Crist faces. Thankfully, he has a handful of seasoned professionals coupled with the fresh perspective of new leaders to help him achieve this important task.

Lynn McDaniel, Tampa

Even in N.Y., the job pays far less

A taxing mentality

This Nov. 20 article points out how the high salary of the executive director of the St. Petersburg and Pinellas County housing authorities ($220,500 for 2006) exceeds salaries of housing directors with much greater responsibility. This prompts a purely academic question:

If the source of revenues for operating local, state and federal governments is derived mainly from taxes that are increased annually, at what point will this system devour itself?

Government salaries, medical benefits and pensions continue to increase annually, while at the same time private businesses restructure these same costs to make a profit to stay in business. Government's bottom line - raise taxes!

Robert Biggers, Clearwater

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