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COUP WATCH: Voting Machine Clones Fingered For Problems In Palm Beach

by Paul H. Rosenberg Friday, Dec. 08, 2000 at 3:52 PM

Of 5,000 voting machines in Palm Beach County, about 1,000 were newer clones of the Votamatics, called Poll Star. The Sun-Sentinel reports that half the county’s undervotes occured on Poll Star machines, even though they recorded just one-third of the votes.

COUP WATCH: Voting Machine Clones Fingered For Problems In Palm Beach

By Paul Rosenberg

"I watched these poor people trying to put the stylus through the opening," 77-year old poll-watcher Doris Roth, told Sun-Sentinel reporter Brad Hahn. "I said, 'Use both hands and push real hard.'" They tried so hard to push their styluses through, Han reported, that three or four of them actually broke the styluses in the process.

Roth’s testimony provides the lead for a story in the Sun-Sentinel that focuses on a crucial, previously unreported fact--that half the county’s undervotes were concentrated in machines that were off-brand knock-offs of the original Votamatics. Of 5,000 voting machines in Palm Beach County, about 1,000 were newer clones of the Votamatics, called Poll Star. The Sun-Sentinel reports that half the county’s undervotes occured on Poll Star machines, even though they recorded just one-third of the votes. The story doesn’t explain why one-fifth of the machines handled one-third of the votes, which would imply that the Votamatics were used in precincts with fewer voters or more machines for the same number of voters--a discrepancy that deserves further scrutiny.

While the story contains fairly routine denials and blame-shifting from Tony Enos, the county's voting systems

manager, most of them are transparently false or misleading, and clearly fail to address the experienced difficulties, such as those witnessed by Doris Roth, and testified to in thousands of sworn statements. The Democratic Party has collected over 10,000 sworn affidavits detailing problems with the ballot, voting machines, poll workers and “everything else election-related.” The evidence of systemic failure and/or intentional disfranchisement has become overwhelming.

Enos tried to deflect criticism by conducting a test of machine function that utterly failed to duplicate what machines went through on Election Day. He also engaged in a priori reasoning while once again blaming individual voters when, acording to the Sun-Sentinel, “Enos said there is no reason to think one machine would cause more undervotes than another. He said the statistics simply represent voter behavior.”

Republican spin-doctors and conservative pundits continue their practice of blaming voters, and Enos’s statement simply echoes their chorus of blame. But the culpability of the voting systems themselves is virtually taken as a given by experts in design, as reported earlier by COUP WATCH. By now numerous stories have noted the low rates of missing votes with optical systems where voters get immediate feedback telling them if they’ve failed to cast a valid vote. A Washington Post reporter on Democracy Now this morning specifically said that heavily black precincts in counties with such systems had fewer than 1% missing votes--virtually the same as all other precincts in these counties.

All this amounts to overwhelming evidence that individuals are not to blame for getting confused by confusing systems and ballot designs, or for getting frustrated by frustrating equipment, or for being given false instructions before voting, or false information after voting that prevents them from getting a new ballot, or for any of the other many problems that confronted would-be voters on Election Day. It’s the system in Florida that’s broken, not the people.

Meanwhile, The Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post continue to provide coverage that’s far more detailed and reliable than the national media in general, but their investigations continue to turn up as many new questions as answers.


For the original Sun-Sentinel story reported on in this piece, click the link below.

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