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Florida should switch to optical scan paper ballots

Now is the time to use our experience with the 13th Congressional District election in Sarasota County to adopt a statewide solution to our voting problems.

We should urge the Legislature to pass laws mandating the use of optical scan paper ballots in every Florida county. These ballots have not been criticized in any of the counties in which they are currently being used. They are the most obvious and best solution to how we should vote in Florida.

Why use optical scan paper ballots? They are voter verifiable. They are easily recountable by machine or by hand. They utilize proven technology, used for decades to grade tests in schools across the United States. They provide an irrefutable record of voter intent. They can be error checked, in the presence of the voter, giving him/her a chance to revote a "spoiled ballot." They can be handled and secured in traditional ballot boxes with locks and seals that inspire voter confidence. What could possibly be a better or simpler solution to our problems?

It is time to stop digging ourselves into a hole with electronic touch screen voting. It has become obvious that it does not provide the tangible proof of voter intent necessary to inspire voter confidence. Meanwhile, we have wasted millions of dollars. In the long run, the investment in a statewide optical scan system will cost us much less. Standardization will lower costs and increase our ability to solve problems in the future.

Other solutions being proposed only set up a smokescreen and give us a false sense that we are solving our problems. Register-type receipts cannot easily be used for a recount. A "none of the above" choice does not address the lack of tangible proof that our votes are not being manipulated within the machine. Vote by mail systems would allow unscrupulous persons to secretly discard votes.

Florida should lead the nation by adopting a statewide optical scan paper ballot. We should do this expeditiously so it can be held up as a model of what needs to be done nationally.

James Frazier, Bradenton

Voters deserve to have answers

Last year, I proudly watched on TV as we sent American troops to escort the Iraqi people as they voted in their first democratic election. Determined to give the Iraqis the gift of democracy, we spent billions of our tax dollars so Iraqis could vote.

Now, Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent and the local government think it is okay to have 18,000 disenfranchised local voters.

The underpinning of our democracy is a fair voting system. It is a system where every vote is expected to be counted. When the system fails, the people are owed an explanation.

The voting system here in Sarasota County has failed its people. Our controversial electronic touch screen voting machines recorded more than 18,000 undervotes, a dramatic statistical abnormality in the high-profile congressional race. Hundreds of voters reported instances of machines not recording their votes for Christine Jennings.

The voters of Sarasota deserve answers about what went wrong with the voting system. The significance of these voting machines' failure to accurately record the vote is bigger than Congressional District 13. It is about democracy and our role as an international leader of democracy.

All Americans need to have confidence that when we go to the polls, our votes will count and be counted. Winning and losing close elections are part of democracy, but losing faith in the system is a grave threat to democracy.

Rita Ferrandino, Sarasota

New evaluation needed

The results from the Sarasota County voting machine testing may have proved no machine error, but they didn't prove that there wasn't a design flaw either in the machine or in the ballot setup that affected the results.

Using state workers who probably knew the machine as well as the purpose of the test really proves very little except that touch screens work if you really focus on what you're doing.

It is quite possible that if the test was done with a cross section of the Sarasota County population, including both new voters and the elderly, the results would be different. The test would have to be done in a manner similar to actual voting. In other words, nobody helps the voter, but it is videotaped. This would be a better indication as to whether the actual collective intentions of the voters were accurately tabulated or not.

Daniel Reniger, Safety Harbor

Purposeless bashing, letter | Dec. 1

Misleading labels

This letter talked about "liberals perpetuating the myth that President Bush led us to war in Iraq knowing that no weapons of mass destruction existed." In fact, many conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan, have opposed the war from the start.

More important, we should stop referring to liberals or conservatives as though each were a package in which people can neatly fit. That kind of categorizing leads to further conflict rather than to resolution of problems. Most Americans - whether liberal or conservative - would like to see an end to the war, regardless of how we felt when it began.

Jean York, Pinellas Park

Face facts: Institute needs an overhaul | Dec. 2

Byrd's tantrum

Johnnie Byrd is offering his own "rambling diatribe" about the operation of the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute. The fault I find with the institute is Byrd's failure to resign and its name, which should be changed to almost anything but a name including "Byrd."

Byrd is responsible as a member of the board for authorizing all of the business practices he finds to be so improper. With the power that Byrd has, he has controlled the entire operation. He would have been very much aware of contracts with lobbyists, public relations firms, consultants, terms of contracts with administrators, and purposes of foreign travel. With the control that he has imposed on this operation, he certainly cannot now say that activities of the scientist in charge and the administrators are all wrong.

My feeling is that he is merely having a tantrum over the fact the Legislature took back some of the appointment authority that he somehow created for himself at the start of this organization.

We can only hope the Legislature can remove all vestiges of Byrd, his friends and his name. Also, it is very appropriate to continue the present plan requiring a scientist to be in charge of implementing policy as established by the board of trustees with appropriate board oversight.

Paul C. Blatt, Dunedin

Draft citizenship test questions unveiled | Dec. 1

Testing to the test

Every time I attend a citizenship swearing-in ceremony, it occurs to me that one of the questions should be: "You will be swearing to 'abjure allegiance to any foreign prince.' Do you have any idea what that means?"

Jim Snyder, St. Petersburg

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