Tuesday, October 19, 2004

In Florida, Early Voting Means an Early Return to Problems

By Abby Goodnough, New York Times, October 19, 2004


Presidential voting in Florida began two weeks early on Monday, in an effort to avoid many of the problems that plagued Election Day 2000.

But like persistent ghosts, some of those problems immediately resurfaced: long lines, trouble verifying voter registration data and a sense among black voters that they were being unfairly treated.

Here in Duval County, the state's most populous, where suspicion still simmers after 27,000 votes were thrown out in 2000, mostly in black neighborhoods, the beleaguered elections supervisor abruptly resigned, citing health problems. The elections office here has been under fire for opening only one early-voting site.


About 20 states, including Florida, also unconditionally let voters mail in ballots before Election Day, according to the National Association of Secretaries of States. Elections offices in Florida and elsewhere have received record requests for mail-in ballots, partly because of suspicion about the electronic voting machines that many states, including Florida, now use.


In Florida, voting stalled in at least three populous counties - Broward, Hillsborough and Orange - when the laptop computers used to verify voter information stopped connecting to a central database, said Alia Faraj, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Hood.

"You can't just crawl into a hole and say, 'Oh God, please work it out,' " said Brenda Snipes, the elections supervisor in Broward County, who told workers to confirm voter information by telephone after the malfunction brought voting at nine satellite locations to a standstill.

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