GOP apologizes over voting flier; glossy mailer warns against touch-screens

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Sun Aug 01 2004 - 15:01:38 CDT

One of the more hilarious stories recently on DREs and their supporters.
First, they mail out a flier saying, "ORDER YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT NOW The
liberal Democrats have already begun their attacks and the new electronic
voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a
recount."

Then they had to take it back.

I swear I had nothing to do with it.

I really don't see this as a Republican v. Democrats issue, but I guess some
people do.

Alan D.

********
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-cabsentee30jul30,0,7600265.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

GOP apologizes over voting flier; glossy mailer warns against touch-screens

By Mark Hollis, Christy McKerney and Jeremy Milarsky
Staff writers
Posted July 30 2004

An embarrassed state Republican Party apologized Thursday for a GOP campaign
brochure that urged voters to use absentee ballots, undermining efforts by
Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Glenda Hood to inspire confidence in
new touch-screen voting machines.

Democratic Party officials and several civil rights groups eagerly pounced
on the flier as either a laughable foul-up or a sign that maybe Republican
leaders also question the reliability of the ATM-like equipment.

Bush, Hood and many GOP legislators have been saying for weeks that the
machines are accurate and the state is ready to run a fair election.

"Have no doubt that we are confident of Florida's elections system, and that
means the entire electoral system is accurate and secure," said Joseph
Agostini, spokesman for the Florida Republican Party. "We regret any
misunderstanding over this issue."

Democrats, civil-liberties organizations and voter-rights groups have been
trying to appeal a state rule that prohibits manual recounts of the
touchscreen voting machines, which leave no paper record, and in many cases
have been urging voters to use absentee voting as a way to keep such a paper
record.

Absentee ballots are recorded by optical scan machines that detect pencil
marks on paper to determine a voter's intent.

Broward County assistant elections supervisor Gisela Salas said Broward
County voters had already requested more than 16,000 absentee ballots by
Thursday morning.

More than 15,000 Palm Beach County voters have already requested absentee
ballots for the Aug. 31 primary election, Palm Beach County Supervisor
Theresa LePore said. That's more than twice as many voters as was recorded
at the same time of the year before the 2002 gubernatorial primary
elections.

"We do have an increase in the number of absentee ballots requested," LePore
said. "But I can't say it's directly attributable to people not wanting to
use" touch-screen machines.

The Republican apology stemmed from a glossy mailer paid for by the GOP and
sent to Miami voters in a hotly contested state House district primary race
between two Republicans. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are among 15
counties who switched from punch-card ballots to touch-screens after the
2000 presidential recount.

The flier featured a smiling President George W. Bush and urged voters not
to take a chance with the touch-screen machines.

"The liberal Democrats have already begun their attacks and the new
electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in
case of a recount," the front page of the mailer reads. "Make sure your vote
counts, order your absentee ballot today."

But the governor and secretary of state have stood fast in their support of
the machines.

"Have they not had the opportunity to talk with Governor Jeb Bush or Glenda
Hood?" asked Florida ACLU director Howard Simon.

Simon spoke from his car Thursday as he drove to Key West, where he was to
take part in a two-day meeting of 50 ACLU lawyers to discuss, in part,
Florida's problems with the new touch-screen voting machines.

Those concerns heightened when it was discovered this week that, in
Miami-Dade County, the electronic records of the Democratic gubernatorial
primary between Janet Reno and Bill McBride had been largely lost because of
two 2003 computer crashes.

A team of experts from the secretary of state's office arrived in Miami-Dade
on Thursday, said Seth Kaplan, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade County
Department of Elections.

"They are trying to understand what happened to make sure it won't happen
again," Kaplan said. He would not specify how the team was going about its
work. Similar problems have not been found in Broward or Palm Beach
counties.

The governor's spokeswoman, Jill Bratina, said Bush, who is on a trade
mission in Canada, had not seen the flier but would not approve of its
criticism of touch-screen voting.

"He does not agree with any message that is going to criticize the
touch-screen system because it works," Bratina said. "We had elections in
2002 on electronic machines. ... They work, and voters should be comfortable
using them."

Democratic Party officials aren't so sure that it was an innocent mistake.
They blasted the GOP for issuing the brochure.

"It wasn't only inappropriate, it was outrageous," said state Sen. Ron
Klein, a Boca Raton Democrat who was reached by telephone at the Democratic
National Convention in Boston. "If the voting equipment isn't a problem,
then don't create political literature and issue political statements which
are designed to scare people or intimidate them."

Leaders of several liberal interest groups said they don't accept the
apologies.

"It stinks," said Sharon Lettman-Pacheco of the People for the American Way
Foundation. "The damage is done. There is no time now to flip-flop. I don't
care about the apologies. They just need to put in place an audit trail to
make sure every vote gets counted."

Brad Brown, president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP, said the
organization is promoting absentee ballots and early voting.

"We are distributing absentee ballots at churches and housing projects," he
said. "I think we will see more absentee voting efforts from both parties.
Voting by absentee ballot has now become easy."

The GOP flier was mailed to voters in House District 119 in Miami-Dade where
incumbent Rep. Juan-Carlos Zapata, a Republican, is running in the primary
against challenger Frank Artiles.

In an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Zapata downplayed the
mailer and insisted that he had no involvement in its distribution. However,
he said it surfaced as a response to an earlier mailer distributed by the
Miccosukee Indian tribe that also used the president's image on behalf of
the write-in contender.

"The Miccosukee brochures had George Bush all over it, and I think the
party, just from a political standpoint, felt uncomfortable with something
out there like that that wasn't for a Republican candidate, and they wanted
to get something out there," Zapata said. "I just don't think they were
careful about the language. They just wanted to make sure that anyone who
may be feeling some apprehension to using the machines would know that they
have some alternative (absentee voting)."

Staff Writer Tania Valdemoro contributed to this report. Christy McKerney
can be reached at cmckerney@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4295.

Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:01 2004

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