Scattered glitches in Florida

By WND Staff

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. – In stark contrast to the Sept. 10 primary in which Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency, today’s general election appears to be running smoothly across the Sunshine State, with only minor, widely scattered problems encountered.

“I’m very impressed. It seems we’re on our way to having a good election,” Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith declared.

Early in the day, election officials reported problems with optical scanners in Brevard, Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties but later said the trouble had been fixed.

“We’ve heard of a few problems, a few glitches this morning but nothing serious, it seems,” said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of State. “There were a few precincts with trouble but that’s to be expected.”

Elections supervisors in Osceola County are urging those who voted at Precinct 11 early this morning to come back, due to an erroneous ballot that may have caused votes to be rejected. Poll workers switched out the ballots and put the errorneous ones into an emergency compartment per Florida law, reported WKMG-TV.

Touchscreen machines were misprogrammed at a South Miami precinct, but Miami-Dade County
Manager Steve Shiver said a backup system was put in place and no one was turned away.

Still, callers to Florida radio talk show, “The Neil Rodgers Show,” complained of “election rigging” and
described that when they selected “McBride” for governor, the machines instead registered a vote for Bush.

In Broward County, an electrician was called to a precinct running on battery power, and two precincts opened three minutes late. Throughout the day, an online map showing the status of Broward polling stations was green all over, indicating no problems at any precincts.

“This is technology at work. We were able to take care of any problems that arose,” Broward Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Oliphant suffered fierce
criticism for her handling of the primary.

Palm Beach County officials, who weathered the epicenter of the 2000 storm with the notorious butterfly ballot, reported mostly smooth
sailing at its precincts.

In 2000, Democrats and Republicans mounted legal challenges and pushed for a series of manual recounts because of alleged polling irregularities.

WND Books author and
congressional candidate Katherine Harris
, then Florida’s GOP secretary of state, certified the election for George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore, handing Bush the state’s 11 electoral votes and the White House five weeks later.

Florida lawmakers went to work immediately following the presidential election debacle and passed reform legislation that outlawed punchcard ballots and mandated that counties already using optical-scan ballots adopt new machines called “Precinct Counters” that sound an alarm when a voter makes an error.

Lawmakers allocated $32 million for new machines, voter education about the new machines and the development of a new central voter database to detect felons.

Elections officials offered hundreds of demonstrations at shopping malls, civic associations, churches and other organizations to try to avoid voter confusion. But confusion reigned during the September primary where volunteers struggled to get polls open as much as four hours late in some Miami precincts, and the outcome of the Democratic race for governor was subsequently delayed a week.

The pressure is on in the fourth most populous state as the high-profile gubernatorial race has caught the national spotlight. Democrat and political novice Bill McBride is challenging Republican incumbent Bush. Recent polls put Bush narrowly ahead.

Thousands of public employees are on hand at the polls to monitor voting, as well as representatives of the NAACP and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, monitors dispatched by the U.S. Department of Justice and European observers enlisted by the Washington-based Center for Democracy which normally oversees Third World elections.

In addition to the gubernatorial race, Floridians are also selecting a new attorney general and agriculture commissioner, and must vote on 10 constitutional amendments spanning issues from capital punishment to protecting pregnant pigs.

The unusually long ballot caused long lines at the polls. But officials stress all who got in line before they closed at 7 p.m. will be able to vote.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno, who lost the Democratic primary for governor, waited with 40 others to vote in suburban Miami before quickly moving through the line. In September, she was initially turned away from her precinct because machines weren’t ready.

“It was smooth. They were prepared for me this time,” Reno told the Associated Press.

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