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FW: Florida Polls

A friend asked me for an explanation of how our Polls work. Thought I'd
crosspost here:

Florida is not uniform. Each county can do things very differently, but of
course there is the overarching statutes we are all supposed to follow.

My county (Okaloosa) currently uses optical readers. For anyone who isn't
familiar with them, you go to a tiny portable "booth" and use a permanent
marker to color in your selection next to the candidate you want to vote
for. Very simple. You can also write in a candidate on the open line for
that for each slot.

There are often several ballots and poll workers determine based on party
(or no party) registration, which ballot a voter gets. There are also
multiple ballots because of the insane redistricting that went on here in
2002 following the census. We have some precincts that have multiple voting
districts so things can get very confusing trying to identify which ballot
goes to which voter. Of course for the big election in November it won't be
quite so confusing because party won't matter, only which election district
the voter lives in.

Once the ballot is marked, it is taken by the voter to the computerized
optical reader. The voter feeds the ballot into the hopper and the ballot
is read immediately. If there is a problem the ballot is spit out
immediately. We try to feed the ballot in a couple of times, just to be sure
there wasn't just a misread. If the ballot is still rejected we have
several options. If the voter indicates he or she wants the ballot to stand
as is, we place it in a side hopper where it will be read by a human. This
happens with some, but not all, write-ins and with people who don't cast a
vote for someone, say a county commissioner because they don't like any of
the ones running. If so, the ballot is placed in the side hopper for later

If the voter has placed an extraneous mark, or voted for two people in the
same race, we give them a second ballot and they can redo it.

We track how many ballots (and spoiled ballots) we give out, we track the
numbers on the actual optical reader, we track the number of voters who are
signed in. ALL numbers must match! We spend a good deal of time when
voters aren't actually voting, recalcuating all our numbers and compairing
them to each other's method of tracking, so we can have less to do after the
polls close.

By 2006 we will be required, by law, to have at least one touch screen
voting machine at each polling place. This requirement is for handicapped
voters. It will have sound to allow a voter who cannot see to vote for
her/himself, instead of using a helper as we have to do now. It will also
allow those who cannot write to talk to it. We haven't bought the machines
yet so I don't know if they will have a paper trail or not. I'd think so,
since our election supervisor is very very hard over on having a way to
recheck the votes. ( She is a Republican - poor thing - and a personal
friend. I have confidence in her to do the right thing.)

Even so, even Okaloosa had lawsuits against it in 2000 and in 2002.
Primarily, I think, this was because the election results for Florida were
released before our polls closed. I've actually had people argue with me
that my county can't possibly be in the central time zone since Florida is
in the eastern time zone. Uh, no, dudes. It has four or five counties in
the Central time zone, those of us out here on the Panhandle. Sheesh.

Anyway, hope that explanation is clear. I'll report for duty after Tuesday
and tell you how things go. It'll be interesting to see how things go at a
different polling station than where I'd been before.

Oh, and the other day I looked at how my county was with regard to parties.
There are some 60K Republicans, 20K Democrats, and 30K or so "no party"
registered. Yes, we're a pretty small county with regard to population in
comparison with many other counties in Florida.