The Common Good
February 2007

Touch-Screen Democracy?

by Rose Marie Berger, Jonathan Mendez | February 2007

There were no hanging chads to scrutinize on “undervoted” ballots in Florida’s 13th Congressional District during last November’s midterm elections.

There were no hanging chads to scrutinize on “undervoted” ballots in Florida’s 13th Congressional District during last November’s midterm elections. In fact, there was nothing to scrutinize at all. Somehow, about 18,000 ballots in Sarasota County did not show a vote for Congress. According to Kindra Muntz of the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, voters called throughout Election Day to complain that when they cast a vote for Democrat Christine Jennings, the vote did not appear on the touch-screen machine’s summary page. The margin of victory for Republican Vern Buchanan was only 368 votes, triggering a mandatory recount. But the touch-screen machines produce nothing to recount; there can only be “a printout of a printout of a printout, nothing to audit, nothing to check,” Muntz told Sojourners. A group of voters and several advocacy groups filed a lawsuit several weeks later, asking for a revote.

On the same ballot was a successful citizens’ referendum amending Sarasota’s charter to require a voter-verifiable paper trail. State and county officials who tried to keep the referendum off the ballot are continuing to fight the measure in court.

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