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Another election debacle in Florida.
September 12, 2002 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Another election debacle in Florida. One year and $30m in technology later, the Reno/McBride primary is marred by late openings and other assorted and sundry glitches. I know, it's a CNN link, but I can't resist anything that includes someone delivering the grade "F-minus-minus-minus" (later determined to be merely an "F-minus-minus" and some Drambuie). Any personal voting horror stories from our Florida contingent? Will the state become a case study in how "throwing money at the problem" never works?
posted by mkultra (27 comments total)

 
I live in a Republican county in North Florida, so as you might expect the election went smoothly here.

Today's New York Times has some nice quotes from Jeb Bush about how the buck stops at the county level.
posted by rcade at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2002


I hate to repeat the self-satisfied comments from the local paper's editorial page (but I'm gonna do it anyway, it seems): this is one situation where "effective simplicity" might solve the problem. Canadian elections are decided by voters marking an X on an easily understood paper ballot (the pencil is even supplied!); the ballots are then counted by human beings, the tallies verified by scrutineers, and the results available within hours. It saves money, and everybody feels good about the process. (The results are another matter.) It's both cost effective and accurate. [derail] Given that we dump fantastic amounts of (toxic) technological hardware every year, why not try proven, easy, lo-tech methods instead of always looking for the Big Tech Fix?[/derail]
posted by jokeefe at 8:37 AM on September 12, 2002


It's nice of Jeb Bush to pass the buck back to the counties. I'm sure as the head of the entire state he was powerless to get any of them to shape up. And I suppose it's just a coincidence that, as in the general election in 2000, the errors leaned this direction: a programming error registered all Democratic votes as Republican ... and some Democrats were given Republican ballots.
posted by soyjoy at 8:41 AM on September 12, 2002


Seems to me U.N monitors are needed in the U.S to ensure fair and free elections.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2002


yeah i second the motion of keeping things simple! I remember someone's sig on a Mac forum, went something like this

"When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300° C.

The Russians used a pencil. "

I'm sure the $12billion pricetag is bullshit, but you get the point
posted by derbs at 8:44 AM on September 12, 2002


Ahem
posted by hob at 8:51 AM on September 12, 2002


Dang it, the Russian Space Pencil story is a myth, but you're right - it's an instructional myth.
posted by yhbc at 8:51 AM on September 12, 2002


There were no problems here in the Keys. But then, there never are. With elections, anyway.
posted by JamieStar at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2002


In a just world, this would cost Jeb the election.
posted by goethean at 8:59 AM on September 12, 2002


In a just world, this would cost Jeb the election.

In this case, isn't it all Democrats? I mean I don't doubt repulicans eat this shit up, but it was all for the Democratic nomination right? Shouldn't they be trying harder to make sure they have their own accurate results for their races? ( I don't live or vote in Florida, so I cant say how it works...)
posted by stifford at 9:08 AM on September 12, 2002


State primary elections here are not administered by the parties.

The South Florida debacle might cost Jeb the election. By many accounts, McBride is a more formidable opponent than Reno would have been. Bush ran an unbelievable number of attack ads against McBride before the primary, which had the effect of boosting his name recognition and popularity among many Florida Democrats. If McBride names Alex Pinellas as his running mate and manages to get a decent percentage of the Cuban vote, Bush is going to have a much harder time than he would have against Reno.
posted by rcade at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2002


That snopes link is interesting. They said Fisher sold 400 of these pens to NASA for $2.95 each in 1967. Now they're selling them on their site for $40!
posted by derbs at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2002


As a political hack who observed the FL 2000 recount for the Democrats:

Canadian elections are decided by voters marking an X on an easily understood paper ballot (the pencil is even supplied!)....Given that we dump fantastic amounts of (toxic) technological hardware every year, why not try proven, easy, lo-tech methods instead of always looking for the Big Tech Fix?

There are errors associated with this method (as with all the others), although it is my preferred method too. The ballots are scanned electronically, so when someone fills out the bubble incorrect, it doesn't get counted. OR if there's a stray mark, it counts as an overvote. Also problematic are write-in areas -- I saw many votes for Gore for president, but then Lieberman in the write-in box. The intent was obviously a vote for Gore/Lieberman, but some want to call that an overvote. Ad nauseum...

In this case, isn't it all Democrats? I mean I don't doubt repulicans eat this shit up, but it was all for the Democratic nomination right? Shouldn't they be trying harder to make sure they have their own accurate results for their races?

The Democratic party doesn't run the elections (that wouldn't be ethical); each county's election board creates the ballot and then runs the election. However, the equipment, guidelines, materials, and purge lists come from Tallahassee.

It's nice of Jeb Bush to pass the buck back to the counties. I'm sure as the head of the entire state he was powerless to get any of them to shape up.

Technically, he's correct -- there isn't much he can do. This is what furiated me so much about Florida in 2000. The Secretary of State can only merely *suggest* how each county should run their elections. Did you know that when a recount was ordered, the counties didn't technically have to comply? So some counties (mostly Northern counties) didn't. The Secretary of State really has no authority over the county election boards. So how the hell is reform ever going to come about?
posted by jennak at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2002


The reason there are less screwups in Canada is because there is a single government agency, 'Elections Canada' whose sole job is to handle elections.

The problem in Florida is that elections are still run by the individual counties, every county has a different type of form, different hiring practises, and poorer counties don't have the resources of richer counties. What Florida should do is create a single election agency, that can order voting equipment in bulk, that can do test runs beforehand, that has strict procedures for recounts and can ensure each county has the same level of service.

Having elections run at county level is just wasting taxpayers money.
posted by bobo123 at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2002


it's just an anti-federalist's paradise down there, ain't it?
posted by goethean at 9:23 AM on September 12, 2002


yhbc: Thanks for the Snopes link. I love the fact that the mythical government expenditure went from $1.5 million to $12 billion in just a few years. We've got to Whip Inflation Now!
posted by languagehat at 9:24 AM on September 12, 2002


Considering the 2000 general election and this 2002 primary election, the fact that Florida has managed to lose so many children, you would think that the Democratic base and the Unaffiliateds will be energized to vote Jeb out come November 5th.

But the real "X-Factor" is whether or not people have lost too much faith in the electoral system to bother going out to vote. People in southern counties, Democratic strongholds might have a tough time swallowing that their vote will actually count. They might truly believe that the Republicans are going to rig the election anyway, so no point trying.

Let's hope they do come out to vote in November.
posted by jennak at 9:26 AM on September 12, 2002


As someone whose ideology approaches socialism (registered member of the Green Party, which is a more accurate description of my politics, but not quite as understood an ideology), I applaud Canada's handling elections through a central body. As long as the central body is just and all, of course. Big Government is like a tomato. A good tomato is the best thing in the world, a bad tomato is the worst thing in the world. Hope my analogy makes sense to more than just me.....
posted by mogwai at 9:42 AM on September 12, 2002


Who says throwing money at a problem never works? It all depends what you mean by works, and who wants what.
posted by donfactor at 10:03 AM on September 12, 2002


Canadian elections are decided by voters marking an X on an easily understood paper ballot (the pencil is even supplied!); the ballots are then counted by human beings, the tallies verified by scrutineers, and the results available within hours. It saves money, and everybody feels good about the process.

I suspect that most areas of the US do a lot more electing of a lot more offices (and questions) than in Canada. Non-automated methods could get unwieldy when you're electing 15-20 federal, state, local and special-district offices as well as various referenda and so on, and dealing with school bond issues and other elections popping up every year or even more often. Whether it's good to do that much electing is a different question.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2002


But the real "X-Factor" is whether or not people have lost too much faith in the electoral system to bother going out to vote. People in southern counties, Democratic strongholds might have a tough time swallowing that their vote will actually count.

This is a great point. The "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" cycle is now complete.

Is Jeb Bush unapposed on the Republican ticket? Was there even a primary for them to screw up?
posted by mkultra at 10:34 AM on September 12, 2002


Ok, I am a Florida voter.. On Tuesday, I went to the poll at 9 A.M., only to find a 45 minute wait due to the fact that only 3 out of 12 machines were working at all. Polls were open late, and when I went back at 8:30, the guy kept trying to give me an Independent ballot. I had to explain to him 3 time that I was a Democrat, but it said right there in the column on his sheet that I was an N (Independent). I then pointed out that on his sheet, everyone was an N. Turns out he was looking at the wrong column. I wonder how many others unknowingly received an Independet ballot that day, thus preventing them from voting in the Democratic Primary.

Incompetence all around.
posted by eas98 at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2002


The Florida elections site didn't run any results for governor in the Republican primary, so I'm assuming that Jeb ran unopposed.

What I don't get about Florida is how we could spend so much money on election reform and not institute uniform vote-taking. Here in St. Johns County, we vote by drawing a line between two arrows with a black marker, and we are present when the ballot is fed into a machine, which gives us a chance to prepare a new ballot if our original is rejected. I don't understand the decision to use touch screens in South Florida, which had to be considerably more expensive and required special computer training for precinct officials.
posted by rcade at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2002


Two things:

1) Katherine Harris, who as we know illegally oversaw much of the preparation for yesterday's primaries in addition to being a candidate herself, romped home in her own primary--MYSTERIOUSLY ENOUGH, Sarasota Republicans didn't experience any technical difficulties. But as I posted in the previous thread on this topic, the most revealing comment came from Jeb himself: "What is it with Democrats having a hard time voting? I don't know."

Translation: "Foolish Democrats! As long as I am governor, your votes will never be counted in a Florida election again! AH HA HA HA HA HAH!!!"
posted by Raya at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2002


I'm in Broward County, one of the four counties in South Florida. No media outlet is bringing up is the reason why so many polling places were caught off guard: gerrymandering. The Republican Legislature redrew all the districts and took a looong time to finalize it. Then they made a few more small changes last week.

District maps and polling places weren't available in some areas until three days before the election. Many poll workers quit when they learned that they were going to have to drive further away, causing staff shortages.

If the maps had been finalized earlier, this wouldn't have happened. Again.
posted by stevis at 2:15 PM on September 12, 2002


The new voting machines were pretty sweet, though.
posted by stevis at 2:15 PM on September 12, 2002


I really expected Reno to mellow out after her prostate surgery, but when I heard her say on the radio today that she would "burn to death all men, women, and especially children who got in the way of her political ambitions" I was sickened. When she then threatened to have snipers shoot all women holding babies if she didn't get a recall, I was disgusted. But when Reno offered blanket pardons to anyone who contributed $100,000 or more to her campaign, I was relieved. Not even democrats are that naive.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:25 AM on September 14, 2002


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