Election: Lingering Worries- Southeast- June 2004
For all the flaws of the infamous butterfly ballot, it was often the voters themselves whose errors became the subject of such jokes as "Flori-duh." And the lingering suspicion that something will go wrong seems to have taken a bipartisan hold on the psyche of voters.
"As the election gets closer, what's laying under the surface is a seething anger that goes all the way back to 2000," says Tony Fransetta, a Wellington resident and president of the 153,000-member Florida Alliance of Retired Americans. "So many people feel they were disenfranchised."
Congressman Robert Wexler, a Boca Raton Democrat, says he hears the concerns everywhere he goes. And Wexler has found a target on which to focus that concern -- the touch-screen voting systems adopted in Palm Beach County and 14 others in the wake of the 2000 election.
"There's significant concern that once again we have an election system that may not count every vote the way it was intended," he says.
The system uses repeated on-screen prompts to ensure that voters are registering their true intent, and it makes it impossible to choose more than one candidate for any race -- the so-called "overvotes." But undervotes are still possible, and the machines do not create a paper record of individual ballots, as does the optical scanning equipment used in the remaining 52 counties.
That makes a true manual re-count -- which Wexler says state law mandates in extremely close races -- impossible. Wexler, Palm Beach County Commissioners Burt Aaronson and Addie Greene and Fransetta have filed suit in federal court in Fort Lauderdale to try to force state and local elections officials to require a paper backup in all 67 counties.
Secretary of State Glenda Hood, however, says printers are unnecessary because of the safeguards built into touch-screen voting. As a practical matter, she says, the machines could not be equipped in time for the November election anyway because no such equipment has yet been certified by federal and state elections officials.
Hood acknowledges that there is more work to do in restoring voter confidence. But she believes voter education -- not new equipment -- is the key. Wexler's suit, she complains, can only "erode the confidence that has been very high and we have worked very hard to build."
15 Touch-Screen CountiesBrowardMiami-DadeCharlotteNassauCollierPalm BeachHillsboroughPascoIndianPinellasLakeSarasotaLeeSumterMartinWho's Minding the Ballots?
Broward Supervisor of Elections:
Brenda Snipes, a former elementary school principal appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in November to replace Miriam Oliphant, whom Bush removed from office in November for mismanagement. Snipes got good reviews for her handling of 18 municipal elections and the Democratic Party primary in March and has said she will run to keep the job in November. As of late April, Oliphant was still waiting for the Florida Senate to act on her request for reinstatement.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections:
Constance Kaplan, a former elections trouble-shooter in Chicago for 10 years, was appointed by Miami-Dade County commissioners last June to replace longtime supervisor David Leahy, who resigned under pressure following problems during the 2002 elections. In November, Kaplan successfully handled a batch of municipal elections, her first major test. Miami-Dade has the state's only appointed supervisor of elections.
Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections:
Theresa LePore, responsible for the infamous "butterfly ballot" that confused many voters in 2000, still gets hate mail blaming her for the election debacle -- and even, by extension, the war in Iraq. LePore, the county's elections chief since 1996, has been graceful and forthright about her share of responsibility. Even her opponents concede that she is a dedicated public servant. Still, she's attracting a small crowd of people who say they'll run against her in November.
IN THE NEWS
Belle Glade -- Two losing city commission candidates are suing the city and the county, alleging that the March 9 election results were tainted by votes cast by felons, non-residents and unregistered voters.
Hollywood -- City officials want a limit on downtown development relaxed, saying a provision that restricts the number of new residences to 1,044 threatens their redevelopment plans. The limit is contained in a 1990 downtown plan approved by both state and local officials.
Martin County -- A divided county commission narrowly rejected a proposal that would have given voters the power to determine whether major growth plan changes could take effect.
Miramar -- A $500,000 contribution and a new school board policy will put Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union's name on a 3,500-seat high school football stadium expected to open in the fall. The city and the Broward school district will each contribute $150,000 toward construction of the stadium at Everglades High School.
City commissioners have approved increases of up to 45% in the impact fees paid by developers to help pay for parks and recreation in the booming city. The fees will rise from $865 to $1,225 on a four-bedroom home.
Palm Beach County -- A $21-million budget shortfall has Palm Beach County school board members considering a proposal to rent out the sides of its 618 school buses to advertisers targeting school-age consumers. Under the proposal, the district would receive a quarter of all advertising revenue.
Port St. Lucie -- Developers of the 5,000-acre residential community Tradition have agreed to sell 118 acres to the city for a regional park.
City council members have voted to pursue an agreement to annex 5,000 acres owned by G.L. Homes of Florida and Ansca Homes in exchange for the two companies covering the more than $50-million cost of widening and improving adjoining Becker Road. The companies have also offered to donate land to the city.
Weston -- South Florida Water Management District officials entered into a $19-million settlement to purchase a 112-acre parcel from Boca Raton developer Harold Dubner that they want to convert to a water reservoir. The reservoir is part of a system of buffers and filtration marshes being assembled to help restore the Everglades and protect the area's water supply.
West Palm Beach -- Palm Beach Atlantic University is moving forward with plans to construct a $20-million, 80,000-sq.-ft. library. The building's completion is scheduled for 2007.
A 10-member selection committee is scheduled to make its recommendation this month from among a dozen architectural and planning firms that have submitted bids for a proposed downtown waterfront park. Mayor Lois Frankel wants to demolish a city library and develop $20 million worth of waterfront improvements.
The county's 6-month-old, $83-million convention center is struggling to hold its losses at $1.5 million a year as plans for its adjoining hotel remained stalled at the county commission, according to a Palm Beach Post report. The commission rejected four suggested deals for the hotel in April and decided to seek new proposals. Convention officials say that without a firm date for the hotel's opening, it is difficult to book large-scale events.
PALM BEACH COUNTY -- County officials have unveiled a vision of the 100-acre Scripps campus that includes a mile-long mall linking the biotechnology research park to a new high school. The plan also includes space for other biotech and drug companies, stores, parks and residential areas.
Catalfumo Construction and Development has been named the project's construction manager.