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We can't pretend there aren't problems counting votes

Letters to the Editor
Published December 13, 2006


Candidate vows not to give up vote fight Dec. 12, story 

Thank you for the interview with Christine Jennings. I had intended to object to your earlier editorial criticizing her for continuing her election fight in light of your opinion that it was already decided.

I agree that Sarasota voters have decided. They are replacing the touch screens with optical scan ballots. I originally thought that was precipitous, since touch screens can be "improved" to allow audits of inputs (i.e. capable of a recount). But another letter writer suggested that recounting from an audit trail is difficult and prone to problems, leaving optical scan as a better alternative. The jury is still out. All we really know is the system that was used in this election is unreliable (not auditable).

It is likely that Jennings is tilting at windmills. But she is seeking the truth hoping it will favor her. I think your editorial criticism is something like an ostrich ducking its head in the sand, waiting for danger to pass it by. Denying the problem will not make it go away.

We did not object loudly enough to prevent the attack on Iraq, and look where that got us. But I do applaud your sense of fairness to prominently allow her to have her say in that interview article.

Hopefully, Jennings can lead Florida (and the nation?) to rectify our problems with counting votes. I don't care who is declared the winner in that election, but Jennings is right, and I am disappointed that her opponent does not concur. The ostrich thing is hardly adequate preparation for the 2008 elections.

Bernard Waryas, Dunedin


Voting system needs examining

Butt out, Dean; Buchanan won Dec. 10, editorial

If Christine Jennings does what the St. Petersburg Times asks and bows out of contention in the 13th Congressional District race, she yields to the formidable bipartisan aversion to examination of our sick, invalid democracy. She has, I think, demonstrated high regard for the voters, all voters, in her effort to date. This contest is a snapshot of politics versus democracy. Some think it's only partisan overkill, sore-loserism. No, it's about whether this particular election is good enough to stand. The results are erroneous.

Quite simply, the election is flawed; everything flows from that healthy admission. Other elections have been flawed, but in this case we know many votes were missed, a statistically irreconcilable number in the thousands. This warrants a fuss, and discontented voters should discover themselves.

It is entirely appropriate, constitutionally, for the U.S. House of Representatives to debate the issue. Outcomes that undermine voting should be compelling and controlling concerns. The House could even split the difference and declare this unacceptable in the future, or order a new special election. The House can do as it wishes remedially. It should speak about and to voters.

The heroic work here is to press the House to weigh in on this, and I hope Christine Jennings will do that as only she is positioned to do. Her chore is for voters. The desire to avoid a partisan clash is a front for the real reluctance to stand up for just process, lest that become habitual.

Larry Allred, Seminole

Butt out, Dean; Buchanan won

Revote on paper

Sunday's editorial repeats a superficially attractive but inadequate explanation for the 13th Congressional District's unprecedented undervote: inept ballot design.

The obviously flawed ballot design comes up short as an explanation because it doesn't account for the wild variations between precincts using the same broken ballot. Nor does bad ballot design explain the apparent massive failure of the voting machinery to warn of an undervotes in the Jennings-Buchanan race.

The House of Representatives owes it to my district to keep our seat vacant until a proper, paper-based election is conducted.

H. Goldstein, Sarasota

Butt out, Dean; Buchanan won

A bipartisan concern

I have been a steady fan of the St. Petersburg Times since we moved here in 1984, so I try to be fair and permissive when I read your editorials, most of which (even when I don't agree) seem data-driven and objective.

I must say, however, you appear to have swung and missed in your editorial lamenting that Christine Jennings has not capitulated to Vern Buchanan in the U.S. House race in Sarasota. The issue is not a partisan one and requires none of the personal judgments made or implied. Rather it is bipartisan, and concerns only the 18,000 votes that are unaccounted for in the final tally.

It is not reasonable to insult us voters by saying we can't read or understand the electronic pages presented to us, or are for some reason physically unable to press the choice buttons correctly.

We need, as Gov.-elect Charlie Crist has indicated, a verifiable paper trail for any election process. Then we can find out what has happened in a case such as this, and not be left with the suspicions that have inevitably and lamentably arisen.

As the matter stands now, it is hard to justify not holding the election again, this time with paper verification. This could be done by the mail-in techniques so successfully used in Oregon elections for the last several years. I would judge that most of the fearsome "hassle" threatened by opponents of such a move would simply not develop, especially since I would anticipate there would be many volunteers to help available from both parties.

Florida surely could use some of the burnishing of our election techniques that such a rerun would provide.

Victor W. Hurst III, St. Petersburg


Touch screens viable

The most recent election brought up much talk about touch screen voting machines. All of this sounds to me like young schoolchildren arguing.

I believe the machines are more accurate than human beings, if the machine is used properly. This can be solved by better instructions and illustrations on their use.

Add an option, "None Of The Above," for each issue on the ballot, and require that each issue have at least one check mark before the ballot can be cast. That would eliminate the issue of machine error for items without a vote.

If a paper trail is still wanted, the technology is there. Look at your receipt from the grocery store.

Clyde Cimarik, Clearwater


What Dean said

A setup for backlash Dec. 10, letter

The letter writer gets the facts wrong about DNC Chairman Howard Dean and the contested 13th Congressional District race.

Dean has not called on the U.S. House to seat Christine Jennings. He has called for a full audit to explain the missing 18,000 votes, and in lieu of that, for not seating either candidate until a revote settles the matter.

It is ironic that the Times staff chose the headline "A Setup for Backlash" because the letter, not anything Dean said, would seem to be a setup for exactly that.

Arlin Briley, St. Petersburg


McCain due apology

McCain's plans on Iraq are fueled by arrogance Dec. 8, Susan Estrich column

I am not a backer of Sen. John McCain as a politician. However, as a fellow naval officer, who served at the same time as Sen. McCain, I have nothing but admiration and awe at his performance as a naval aviator and while being held by the North Vietnamese in the hell holes called POW camps.

Susan Estrich's remarks in this column are the ultimate in ignorance and hatred. She states that he served his country "in isolation." He most certainly did not. The POWs were aware of what was happening in the United States. McCain was aware of the attempts by the North Vietnamese to use him as a lever with his father who was serving as commander in chief of Pacific forces. He refused repatriation before his turn. These are the acts of a hero, not someone in out-of-the-loop "isolation."

Susan Estrich owes Sen. McCain a profound and deep public apology.

Bill Brown, Lecanto


Scrooged, too

Thank you, St. Petersburg Times. You lifted my spirits with Don Wright's cartoon on Saturday, Dec. 2.

Like Rudolph, I too have been out-sourced during the holiday season by a corporation that believes cost is a greater factor than loyalty of employees. While my measly 12 years does not compare to the reindeer's time of service, it still affects my family. Try finding a job with benefits at this time of year.

I am so thankful to the Times for telling the truth about some American corporations' "Scrooge-like" behavior.

E. Allen Folsom, Gulfport

[Last modified December 13, 2006, 01:21:21]

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