Candidate launches Web site to seize on election issue

Published July 26, 2006

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith, eager to endear himself to party activists, is stepping up his calls to improve reliability and accessibility in Florida's election system.

The former prosecutor and state senator from Gainesville has created a new Web site, aimed at improving the election process in the state most famous for botched elections.

At the Web site, www.betterdemocracyflorida.com, voters can read about the issue, sign a petition urging the Legislature to do more to secure voting processes or contribute to the Smith campaign.

"After 2000, we had a moral obligation to make Florida's election process a model for the world but so far that has not happened. If people don't trust the system, should we be surprised that so many decide to stay home on election day?" Smith said . "It's not about left or right - it's about right and wrong. And we have a moral responsibility to get this right."

Among his proposals: making election day a state holiday to promote more participation, expanding early voting hours, and ensuring that all voting machines are independently certified and have a "voter-verified paper trail" for potential recounts.

There appears to be little difference on the election issues between Smith and his primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, who has twice co-sponsored federal legislation for paper trails on electronic voting machines. But the issue is a crowd pleaser and a matter of passionate interest among many Democratic activists who still talk about the disputed presidential election of 2000. Smith appears eager to attach himself to the cause.

"It's something Sen. Smith is showing some leadership on," Smith communications director David Kochman said. "Everywhere we talk about it, voters relate to it and react to it, because it goes to the fundamental nature of campaigns. Sen. Smith will continue to talk about it and it will be something that is a big part of the campaign."

Barbara Walters, a Democratic activist and Davis supporter in Miami, called Smith's emphasis on improving elections "politically expedient." Members of a Miami Democracy for America group talked to Smith about paper trails early last year, she said, and Smith dismissed the idea, saying it would go nowhere. He went on to sponsor a bill mandating paper trails that, sure enough, went nowhere.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727 893-8241 or asmith@sptimes.com