Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Nuts and Bolts

From the Miami Herald:

A proposal to add printers to Miami-Dade’s touch screen voting machines by November’s presidential election fizzled Monday. The culprit: The available technology is not state certified, election officials said.

”We simply cannot use the technology if it’s not state certified, even if the printers were available,” Supervisor of Elections Constance Kaplan told the County Commission’s election subcommittee, while presenting the findings of a 309-page report.

Aware ”all eyes will be watching” Miami-Dade in the upcoming presidential election, Commissioner Jimmy Morales had spearheaded an effort to install printers on the county’s iVotronic machines, hoping the paper trail would restore more confidence in the process for Miami-Dade voters.

”It’s hard to tell voters they can’t have some sort of receipt when they vote. When you go to the ATM, you get a receipt; when you go the store, you get a receipt,” Morales said Monday.

The reason the county cannot install the printers onto the touch-screen technology is because the state has not certified any printers for such use.

iVotronic vendors must wait for specifications from federal and state election officials before they can proceed with a prototype.

”They have to set standards and tell us what they want,” said Meghan McCormick, spokeswoman for Election Systems & Software, the Nebraska-based makers of the iVotronic. ”They have to decide things like the size and weight of the paper used for the receipt, in what languages it will be printed, what would be on it,” she said. Any such printer would first need to be certified by Florida, as required by law.

”Even if things would happen quickly, I doubt the printers could be available before early next year,” McCormick said.

So far touch-screen voting has had a checkered past here in Florida; during the gubernatorial primary in 2002 some of the machines didn’t work, some worked too well (showing more votes than there were voters in the precinct), and many of the people running the polling stations had not been properly trained on what to do in case there was a problem, such as a power failure. So if the lights go out during a thunderstorm (not an unlikely event in November), all the votes at that polling station could potentially be lost. And unlike the old system, there will be no recourse for a recount. So if we get gored again in 2004, the only thing we’ll be able to do is scream and shout the old cheer we had in high school when the ref made a bad call during a basketball game: “Nuts and Bolts! Nuts and Bolts! We Got Screwed!”