The Struggle To Protect Democracy In Florida

Diebold ATMs -- like their voting machines -- crash too.My dad, who’s called Florida home for quite a while now, emailed me the following about goings on there:

The big news here is the struggle to prevent Volusia County adopting the the Diebold touch screen ballot machines. They are bad news, because these Diebold machines do not leave a paper trail and so a manual recount of a disputed election is impossible. The Republican leaders of Florida, who take pride in their deviousness, are trying to require the adoption of these machines under the guise of providing an accessible voting system for the handicapped, especially the visually impaired. This is a red herring, because the Diebold machines do not , in fact, provide accessible independent voting for for many types of handicaps. Their real goal, blatantly transparent, is to eliminate any possibility of a manual recount in any election.

The County Commissioner of Elections, who herself is elected but who is accused by many people of being very cozy with the Diebold company, (the CEO of which is a rabidly partisan Republican who boasted before the 1004 election that he would deliver Ohio for George Bush, and many suspect that is exactly what he did) came before the County Council with a request for $800,000+ to buy 220 touch screen machines that will not leave a paper trail . Each voting precinct was supposed to have one so that the handicapped could vote independently on accessible devices, as the Federal HAVA (Help America Vote Act) of 2003 requires.

The County Council held a number of sessions devoted to this issue. Citizens took sides on it and at least one street vigil was organized by Florida Fair Elections Committee (which opposes Touch Screen machines because they don’t leave a paper trail and thus do not allow for a manual recount). Diebold flew their big guns down to Volusia county to lobby. A national group that claims to speak for the handicapped threatened a lawsuit if the County does not pony up the funds for the machines. The Diebold people brought in national spokesmen for the disabled, but the Volusia County association of disabled (HAVOC – Handicapped Adults of Volusia County) broke ranks and opposed the Diebold touch screen machines. Spokesmen for the ACLU, the Sierra Club, the NAACP as well as other civic groups opposed the touch screen machines because they cherish the ability to recount the vote and demand a paper trail.

We marched in the vigil, we spoke at the County Council meetings and were active in opposing Diebold. The County Council, in three very lengthy and emotional sessions, each time by a 4 – 3 vote, refused the Commissioner of Elections request for the money to buy the Diebold touch screen machines.

The County Council is now being threatened with a flurry of lawsuits, including one to be filed by the Commissioner of Elections, who is suing on the ground that the Council, by refusing the funds, is preventing her from doing her job according to state and federal law. Meanwhile, we suspect that the County attorney is too intimate with the Diebold company.

For now, the four “good” County Commissioners are heroes in the defense of democracy, but it is by no means apparent that Diebold is ready to throw in the towel. The never quit and they have great resources.

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Happy Independence Day!