Posted on Fri, May. 28, 2004




Secretary of state tries to calm voters


Secretary of State Glenda Hood hopes for a scandal-free election in November, even as she acknowledges a swirl of questions about the state's new voting machines.




Amid controversy over touch-screen voting machines and a purge of felons from the voting rolls, Secretary of State Glenda Hood sought on Thursday to reassure anxious voters that 2004 won't be a rehash of the 2000 presidential debacle.


Hood, addressing the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, said she has "great confidence" that the state's 67 elections supervisors are ready for the November election -- and the scrutiny that will accompany it.


"I want the attention to be on Florida, but I always want it to be in a positive way," she said.


But Hood acknowledged her office is investigating a voting machine glitch in Miami-Dade County, which she said was not properly reported to the state.


A spokesman for Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan noted it was the county that detected the problem and said that Kaplan had sought to balance the need to report potential problems against unnecessarily alarming the public.


The glitch involves the auditing system of the iVotronic touch-screen machines Miami-Dade and Broward installed after the mishaps that plagued the 2000 presidential election.


County officials have said the glitch does not affect voting -- only the audits performed days after the election itself. The problem, according to Kaplan, is in the flashcard that downloads the voting information.


When the votes are downloaded, some machines scramble the serial number of the machine, making it difficult to identify where the votes came from.


Hood said her office is investigating "whether it's truly a problem or not." County officials said they could resolve the problem.


The issue arose after a citizens' group, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, filed a public records request and received county memos criticizing the computerized audit.


Hood, grilled by league members with serious reservations about the county's voting equipment, repeatedly sought to distance

her office from election operations.


"I have absolutely no authority over the running of elections in this state," said Hood, a former Orlando mayor who was appointed to the job by Gov. Jeb Bush. She said the department's responsibilities include certifying voting equipment, ensuring

that supervisors follow state law and verifying election results.


The new machines have come under scrutiny for the lack of a paper trail, but Hood defended the touch-screen machines and likened some of the criticism -- that the machines could be tampered with -- to conspiracy theories.


"The touch-screen machines are not computers," she said. "You'd have to go machine by machine, all over the state."


Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.


Copyright 2004 Knight Ridder All Rights Reserved



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