Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Election Mess Is a Valuable Civics Lesson

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Election Mess Is a Valuable Civics Lesson

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

Why doesn't Jacksonville rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd stand a chance of being elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Because they're from Florida, where nobody knows how to hold an election.

After our latest election disaster, a lot of us are feeling like Jacksonville computer analyst Bill McCarthy, who said yesterday: "I'm embarrassed. Jay Leno is making a fortune off us, isn't he?"

Tuesday's primary was extended two hours by Gov. Jeb Bush to make up for the failure of some polls to open on time and other polls to provide ballots in a timely fashion. It was an election in which, at some precincts, nobody knew how to turn on the new voting machines; an election in which, at other precincts, nobody knew how to send in the results. It was an election that made us a punch line. Again.

The good news yesterday was that the governor apparently doesn't consider Duval County part of the problem. He blamed Miami-Dade and Broward counties. "Let's be clear about this: 65 counties got it right," Bush said yesterday. "Wasn't perfect, but they got it right."

That was small solace for members of the Duval County Elections Advisory Panel, which had been meeting biweekly to try to assure that this election would go smoothly.

"A debacle," said Mark Tippins, a Jacksonville lawyer who chaired the panel.

"The system is still broke," said Isaiah Rumlin, president of the local NAACP branch and also a member of the Elections Advisory Panel.

Which it is and it isn't.

The problem in 2000 was that thousands of ballots were invalidated because confused voters cast ballots for more than one candidate. This time, with the old punch cards replaced, there were no problems with overvotes, said Robert Phillips, senior elections officer for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office. …

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