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Comparing Florida Elections to USDA Beef
by Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coalition
It's important that Americans have confidence in their food supply. But is false confidence the same thing? What if all beef inspectors in the U.S. decided to stop inspecting beef because they might find problems? After all, if they found problems, that might hurt consumer confidence. Sounds absurd, doesn't it? And yet, this is the exact approach that the Florida Department of State and Florida Division of Elections continue to advocate regarding the state's elections.
Election audits are supposed to ensure that electronic voting machines have accurately counted paper ballots. These audits -- in this case referring to a hand count of paper ballots following the election to confirm machine counts -- are a vital check on the accuracy of Florida's optical scan voting systems. But a new emergency rule filed July 1 by the Florida Division of Elections has been carefully molded to say it is checking the accuracy of election results, but is actually accomplishing the opposite. It is a non-check that won't hurt voter confidence by discovering any problems before the election is certified.
The audit law passed in 2007 by the Florida Legislature was incredibly weak -- requiring the hand count of just one race per election and only 2% of the precincts in that one race. But the emergency rule weakens this law even further. The new rule prohibits any audit from occurring until after the election is certified -- in other words, until it is too late to make any corrections to election results. It allows days to pass between the random selection of the race and precincts to be audited and the actual start of the audit -- meaning there is plenty of time for an elections office to check those ballots in advance and make sure the audit will match election night results. As Elaine Ginnold, Registrar of Voters in Marin County, California has stated, "the audit must start immediately, as soon as the precincts are selected, to prevent anyone from messing with the ballots."
The Florida Department of State' has followed the same twisted logic in its legal battle against the more stringent audit provisions passed by voters in Sarasota County, Florida. The state's legal fight against Sarasota's audit has gone to the Florida Supreme Court, which is expected to issue its ruling any day. When a Florida Supreme Court Justice asked a state attorney why Sarasota's more stringent audit shouldn't be allowed -- why voters shouldn't be able to check election results to make sure they're accurate -- the state attorney responded:
"...because it will happen, as night follows day, that there will be inconsistent results and those inconsistent results will be known and manifest before certifications."
And this is the state's reason for NOT conducting meaningful audits?
Governor Charlie Crist has stated that he doesn't want Florida to be embarrassed by any more election debacles. Making sure that no problems will be found -- even if problems exist -- is one way to prevent embarrassment. Or is it? Just imagine what will happen if Florida has a close Presidential election in November -- a likely scenario -- and incorrect election results are found AFTER certification of the election, when it is too late to correct those results. Now that would be embarrasing. It would also be another Florida election travesty.
Floridians do have one thing to be thankful for, however: The Florida Division of Elections is not responsible for inspecting their beef.
Florida Fair Elections Coalition
Note: The new emergency rule, "Post-Election-Certification Voting System Audit" is attached, along with the various forms to support this so-called audit.
Subject: Division of Elections/Rulemaking: Emergency R1S-ER08-4 Post-Election Certification Voting System Audit
Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2008 17:25:10 -0400
From: "Matthews, Maria I." MIMatthews@dos.state.fl.us
Dear Supervisors and Interested Persons:
The Division of Elections filed today emergency rule 1SER08-4, entitled Post-Election Certification Voting System Audit. The emergency rule takes effect immediately. This rule and the four forms incorporated by reference are attached:
- Form DS-DE 105 A, entitled “Audit Team Worksheet for Direct Recording Electronic Ballots” (eff. 07/08)
- Form DS-DE 105 B, entitled “Audit Team Worksheet for Marksense Ballots” (eff. 07/08).
- Form DS-DE 106, entitled “Precinct Summary” (eff. 07/08).
- Form DS-DE 107 entitled “Post-Election Certification Voting System Audit Report” (eff. 07/08).
The emergency rule is founded on the underlying section 101.591, Florida Statutes, which was precleared by the Department of Justice in January 2008, and became effective July 1, 2008.
The language in this emergency rule mirrors the language that is being developed under proposed new rule R1S-5.026. The Notice of Emergency Rule will be published on July 13, 2008 in the Florida Administrative Weekly (vol/no. 34/27) and will be posted on the Division of Elections’ website (http://election.dos.state.fl.us/laws/EmergencyRules/emergencyRules.shtm) by July 2, 2008.
Note that rulemaking for R1S-5.026 is ongoing and Notice of Proposed Rule will be published in the Florida Administrative Weekly on July 18, 2008 (vol/no. 34/28].
Please contact us if you have any questions or comments regarding this emergency rule or proposed new rule 1S-5.026. Thank you.
Assistant General Counsel
Florida Department of State
500 S. Bronough Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
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Susan Pynchon is the founder and Executive Director of Florida Fair Elections Coalition and its research counterpart Florida Fair Elections Center.
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