May 3, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org 

Disabled and Language-Minority Voters Must Not Be Left Behind, ACLU Says

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The American Civil Liberties Union applauded today’s 118-0 vote by the Florida House of Representatives to pass a bill requiring paper ballot voting technology in all counties before the 2008 primaries and general election. The House vote comes shortly after the Florida Senate approved a similar measure.

“This is a chance for Florida to emerge as a leader on election technology and leave behind the tarnished reputation of being the nation’s laughingstock,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

However, the ACLU noted that under today's legislation, counties are not required to provide paper ballot systems for disabled voters until 2012. Counties will have the option of providing disabled voters with either Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines or a marking device that produces a ballot that is then read by an optical scan reader. The ACLU is urging counties with electronic voting machines to ensure access to paper ballots for disabled voters and not force them to vote on the DRE machines that have been plagued by unrecorded votes (undervotes) and provide no basis for a meaningful recount.

The ACLU is also urging Florida counties to ensure accessibility to ballots for language-minorities by using software that has the capacity to support multiple languages.

“This is an historic vote and drastically shifts the direction our entire country is heading with regard to voting technology,” said Muslima Lewis, ACLU of Florida attorney and Voting Rights Project Director. “Now is not the time to kick up our feet and declare victory - counties must guarantee that paper ballots are going to be used for all voters, and that disabled and language-minority voters are not going to be left behind.”

Simon added, “The battle for fair elections in Florida now focuses on the 15 formerly DRE counties, which must act independently to ensure that disabled and language-minority voters will not be second-class citizens.

After the botched 2000 elections in Florida, 15 counties implemented DRE technology without fully understanding the potential ramifications - such as the 18,300 undervotes in last November’s 13th Congressional District race in Sarasota.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted yesterday to allow funds issued under HAVA (Help America Vote Act) to be used in Florida in conjunction with state monies to fund the transition from DRE to optical scan equipment.

View a video produced by the ACLU of Florida and the Florida Voters Coalition on DRE voting technology at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArU6cBlNysY.


 

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