I live in the ur-swing state. I'd like my vote to count. I'll be voting on an electronic voting machine with no paper trail. I don't trust it. Not at all. (Here's one more reason I don't trust the machines in use in my precinct.)
The most amazing thing about this to me as a person clinging to an increasingly sorely tested belief in the rule of law, is that the plain, plain, plain meaning of the relevant florida statute says that a machine with no backup records is illegal. Florida law demands the ability to do recounts in close elections. This theory is about to be tested in court — at last.
Here's part of the Herald's story.
Florida's election system, ridiculed and maligned during the 2000 presidential election and then rebuilt with new technology, was thrown into chaos again Monday with five weeks to go before Election Day.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta reversed a lower-court judge and ordered him to hear a lawsuit that demands voters be given paper receipts when they use touch-screen voting machines so there is a paper trail in a close election.
The court's decision is vindication for U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, the Palm Beach County Democrat who filed the lawsuit, and a potential nightmare for election officials in the 15 counties that use the ATM-style equipment, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
It also throws an unwelcome light once again on Florida, which was assailed Monday by former President Jimmy Carter, who said a repetition of problems from 2000 “seems likely in Florida.''
Regardless of whether Wexler wins his lawsuit in court, state officials said Monday that they will now draw up an emergency rule requiring touch-screen counties to do manual recounts in close elections — a startling turnaround, because the state fought for months to bar such recounts.
(emphasis added) Problem: how do you do a manual recount where there's no record???
Critics of touch-screen technology are alarmed that there may be no way to know if a machine malfunctioned during a close election.
State law requires recounts when elections are decided by a razor-thin margin. If the difference in vote totals between candidates after the first automatic recount is less than one-quarter of 1 percent, election officials are required to do a manual, or hand, recount of all overvotes and undervotes. Overvotes are votes for more than one candidate in a race; undervotes are no votes at all in a particular race.
But the state elections division has argued that manual recounts aren't needed for touch-screen machines because they are incapable of recording overvotes. State officials even issued a rule prohibiting counties from doing manual recounts — a rule the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups successfully challenged in court last month.
The law suit raises that issue, but I can't imagine how some new rule relying on this technology can address it.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Glenda Hood called the ruling ''procedural'' but acknowledged that the state now plans a new rule in time for the Nov. 2 elections spelling out how to do manual recounts in touch-screen counties. How recounts would be done hasn't been decided, spokeswoman Jenny Nash said.
She said state officials were interested in doing what “we feel will best serve Florida. We are concerned with finality and not continued litigation.''
But the state's solution does not at this time include paper receipts, because Florida hasn't certified any printers that can legally be used with touch-screen machines.
And I predict there is no way it can in time for the election. Unless they scrap the machines, which is pretty unlikely.