Recalling Florida

FRAMINGHAM (10/02/2003) - Remember Florida in 2000? The outdated voting machines and disputed election results? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California does, and it has sued to block California's recall election slated for Oct. 7, until the state replaces its punched-card voting systems.

On Aug. 20, a federal judge rejected the request. Though California is under a court order to modernize its voting systems by March 2004, the recall election takes precedence. Voters will choose whether to recall Governor. Gray Davis, and if yes, then pick from a list of 135 candidates to succeed him.

The ACLU of Southern California won an appeal after arguing that the old methods would be unfair to voters in urban areas such as Los Angeles. On Sept. 15, a court said the election should wait until March, after new machines are installed. Even in places where new technology has replaced old, people are worried. Orange County officials, who installed a US$26.1 million electronic voting system, say they'd like more time to train poll workers. They may rely on older ballots to do the job.

In spite of this uncertainty, Doug Chapin, director of nonpartisan election reform website Electionline.org, says the recall balloting will offer a good test of some new systems before the 2004 elections. Shasta County, for example, will be implementing touch screen voting for the first time this month. "The experience of counties like Shasta could provide a lot of lessons—good or bad, depending on the outcome—for other counties considering last-minute changes next year," Chapin says.

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