Florida Turmoil Holds Some Lessons for Other Places Debuting New
By Aron Goetzl
September 19, 2002
Latest Florida Turmoil Holds Some Lessons for Other Places Debuting
New Electronic Systems By Aron Goetzl electionline.org
jurisdictions are not the only ones switching to cutting-edge
electronic machines during the 2002 elections. Atlanta, Houston, and
Oakland are some of the other high-profile places that will employ
new voting systems this fall.
Though they have not necessarily
shared similar experiences in their respective implementations, many
of those localities have at least one thing in common: they have
been closely following the trials and tribulations of Floridaís
counties since the Sept. 10 primary.
ìThe Florida story broke right
in the middle of when we were training our poll workers,î said Scott
Konopasek, elections manger for Snohomish County, which became the
first Washington State jurisdiction to use touch-screen machines
this weekís primary. ìWe actually tweaked a couple of things. We
picked up a few lessons.î
In response to Floridaís troubles,
officials distributed a letter from the county auditor to each
polling place on the morning of Election Day that offered
encouragement to poll workers in their administration of the new $5
million technology from Sequoia Voting Systems.
ìWe knew that our
poll workers were a little nervous,î Konopasek said. ìThey didnít
want to be characterized like the ones in Florida have been.î
Officials in Louisiana, which invested more than $3 million this
year in Election Systems & Software touch-screens for in-person
absentee voting starting this fall, reviewed its preparation efforts
following the Florida primary, said state elections director Keith
ìIt made us kind of downshift and do a double-check and
triple-check,î Edmonston said. ìWe found that we had already
addressed a lot of problems that theyíre talking about [in Florida].
We just had to make sure.î
Watching local and state election
officials in Florida take heat for machine and poll worker failures
has state officials even more on edge before the system debuts next
week in some parishes.
ìThe anxietyís gotten a lot tighter,
especially knowing that we have the same machines that they have [in
Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, two trouble spots last week],î
Edmonston said. ìI donít see us having those problems right now, but
I might be wrong next week.î
In Hinds County (Jackson, Miss.),
which will become the first jurisdiction in the nation to use
wireless voting machines from Advanced Voting Solutions, officials
will now emphasize poll worker training even more before November.
ìIt appears that it was a lack of poll worker training down in
Florida,î said Connie Cochran, chairwoman of the countyís election
commission. ìThat definitely put a renewed focus on our training. We
have added some additional days of training.î
remains confident in her countyís decision to switch to a new voting
ìAs with any voting machines, even our old ones, there are
going to be glitches, but we feel as though weíre doing what we need
to do to make it work,î Cochran said.
Georgia officials express
similar sentiments as they continue to prepare for the largest
implementation of touch-screen technology in U.S. history. All 159
counties in the Peach State will use a $54 million Diebold system in
November. The possible negative consequences of such a massive
undertaking, which was made perfectly clear in south Florida last
week, has not been lost on local officials and media in Georgia.
ìThatís kind of all Iíve been talking about these last 10 days,î
joked Chris Riggall, spokesman for Secretary of State Cathy Cox.
Riggallís response is meant to allay any fears that Georgia might
be another Florida: itís different here.
ìWe do think there is a
dramatic difference between the Florida model and the Georgia
model,î Riggall said. ìWeíre going down the road of total
uniformity. We think the advantages of uniformity are great.î
key distinction that Riggall pointed to is responsibility for
training poll workers. In Florida, county officials conduct the
training; in Georgia, though, state officials in partnership with
Diebold officials will instruct poll workers how to handle the new
ìWeíre all in the same boat together,î Riggall said of
state and local officials. ìWeíre going to be successful because the
state and counties are working in concert.î
Some local officials
viewed the heightened attention given to new voting systems after
the latest Florida turmoil as a potential to boon to their countiesí
ìItís raised public awareness of [our new
system] so it will help get the word out,î said David Beirne,
spokesman for Harris County (Houston, Texas) Clerk Beverly Kaufman.
The jurisdiction will use new e-slate machines in November.
Cochran, ìPeople are aware and paying close attention. There will
definitely be eyes on Hinds County this November.î
But those eyes
might be more interested in failure, not success, as was the case
this week in Snohomish County.
ìWe certainly came under a lot
more scrutiny from the media because of what happened in Florida,î
Konopasek said. ìBut when it didnít happen here, they didnít write