Screens join butterfly ballots

Florida will change voting machines again in attempt to end its debacles.

Since the 2000 presidential election, Florida has been a symbol of ineffective voting methods and problems that continue to haunt democracy. In an attempt to change its reputation, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has announced that the state will be tossing aside its new touch-screen voting machines in favor of paper ballots. This should help voter confidence in the next election and ensure that Florida no longer grabs headlines following elections.

In 2000, the phrase “hanging chad” became synonymous with an election in which voting machine problems plagued Florida, the most contested state. In response, the state switched to touch-screen voting machines. These cutting-edge devices represented a huge investment in improving the simplicity and accuracy of voting. However, the machines didn’t keep a printed record of votes, and some worried that their vote could be lost in cyberspace or that it would open the door for corruption and manipulation of vote totals. In the end, there was some substance to these fears.

In the 2006 midterm election, some of these concerns were realized. In Sarasota County, the vote for U.S. Congress was narrowly decided by 369 votes. While this is not particularly noteworthy, there was a disproportionate number of voters that failed to record a vote for the congressional race.

Florida is one of several states that are rushing to get rid of the problematic machines. West Virginia and Maryland are also working to phase out touch-screens over the next few years.

This move by Gov. Crist is a win for democracy. While the switch will cost more than $30 million to complete, this is a small price to restore voter confidence. The new machines will employ paper ballots that are scanned and tallied by machine. This method is used in more than half of all counties, and the paper ballot makes recounts possible.

With the new move, Florida will hopefully be once again associated with beaches and retirement communities instead of voting disasters.