Her Job Is to Improve Florida's Voting Woes; Elections Director Amy Tuck Will Lead the Change to Optical-Scan Machines

Article excerpt

Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING

TALLAHASSEE - Like most Floridians, Amy Tuck hears the same jokes on the same TV shows about voting problems here in the Sunshine State.

The difference is that she is in a position to do something about it.

Tuck, 32, raised in Neptune Beach and a graduate of Fletcher High School, is the state's new elections director. Appointed in January by new Secretary of State Kurt Browning, she is one of only a handful of former Northeast Florida residents in Gov. Charlie Crist's 6-week-old administration.

She couldn't have picked a hotter seat to sit in.

Six years after the 2000 presidential election , in which 27,000 Duval County ballots were discarded because of voting problems in largely minority precincts, Florida showed that it was still problem-prone. In November's congressional election in Sarasota, Republican Vern Buchanan received 369 votes more than his Democratic challenger, Christine Jennings, but the ballots of an estimated 18,000 voters were blank for that race, spurring a lawsuit, a state audit and a controversy that still rages.

That spurred Crist to ask the Legislature for $32.5 million this year to convert all 67 Florida counties to optical-scan voting technology that uses paper ballots. The goal is to improve auditing capabilities, raise voter confidence and erase Florida's punchline status as "The State That Can't Vote Straight."

In charge of it all will be Tuck, aided by Browning and, of course, Crist's office. Tuck has some history and experience on her side, having worked in the Secretary of State's Office when Florida last overhauled its voting system and implemented touch-screen machines in 2001, replacing punch-card paper ballots used in the state for many years.

"I hear those jokes, but they just don't understand. They all still talk about chads," Tuck said, naming one of the reasons the state switched to touch-screen machines. "At some point, you want to say 'enough is enough.' "

Fifteen counties, including Nassau County, use touch-screen machines that do not provide paper-trail ballots. Duval County has touch-screen machines and already has money set aside for printers to provide paper ballots. …