Court avoids Sarasota ballot issue

Published October 13, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Supreme Court refused to get involved Thursday in a dispute between the state and a citizens group over a Nov. 7 ballot initiative that would require Sarasota County's election system to produce a paper record of votes.

The action returns the case to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

The referendum will go ahead in the meantime. Voters will be asked to change the county's charter to require that voting machines leave a paper trail beginning in 2008.

Sarasota County uses touch screen voting machines, and state law does not now require a paper record from such machines. Secretary of State Sue Cobb contends that if the initiative passes, it will conflict with state law, and she wanted the high court to take up the issue quickly, bypassing the appellate court.

The Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections got the issue on the ballot through a petition drive. The county initially challenged the proposal, but Circuit Judge Robert B. Bennett ruled it would be legal.