Touch-screen voting machines don't solve Florida problems

Touch-screen voting machines don't solve Florida problems

It was d'j' vu all over again. In a scenario reminiscent of the November 2000 elections, confusion and equipment malfunctions in Florida's primary yesterday prompted Gov. Jeb Bush to keep the state's polling places open two hours beyond their regularly scheduled closing times.

Bush said he was issuing the order because of 'substantial delays in the opening of certain polling places in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.' Bush also attributed the delays to the 'major technological and procedural changes' mandated by the revision of the state's election code.

The state had spent what Bush called a significant sum of money on new voting machines and training.

Bruce Eldridge, assistant supervisor of technical services for the Broward County Elections Office, did not see the delays as purely a result of voting machinery gone awry. 'Technology is not the answer,' Eldridge said. 'Elections are a people-oriented process. I think the technology failed us in several instances, but the major problems were human factors.'

'I don't know yet the exact incidence of equipment failure,' Eldridge said. 'Once our tech teams have been out to the precincts to evaluate the failures, I'll have an answer.'

Part of the problem was that some poll workers did not show up for duty, Eldridge said.

'You know how the stock market has what they call a 'triple witching hour,' where many events happen at once? Well, that's what happened this year in Florida,' he said. Yesterday was the first statewide use of new election rules and procedures, new equipment, and new precincts. 'We were really being stretched,' he said.

Broward County used iVotronic touch-screen voting machines from Election Systems and Software Inc. of Omaha, Neb. The company's Web site says the equipment makes 'election day operations and voting easy and straightforward.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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