Florida Governor Crist Endorses 'Paper Trail' Voting Machines

ByDavid Kerley

Feb. 2, 2007 — -- Touch screens may not be dead, but they could be on their last legs.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is moving to rid his state of the controversial touch-screen voting machines. He endorsed a $32.5 million plan to convert all the state's counties to a paper-based voting system.

In the land of hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads, which captivated the nation's attention in the famous 2000 presidential vote recount, this may cause quite a stir. But with thousands of touch-screen ballots in November showing "no vote" in a Florida House race, the touch-screen system doesn't seem much better.

Crist said he needs a voting system his state can have confidence in.

"If there's a need for a recount, I think it's important that you have something to recount," he said.

In Florida, it will cost $32.5 million to scrap the voting machines. Election Data Services officials said that in 2006, nearly 38 percent of Florida's counties had them.

Florida's not the only state with touch-screen voting machines. Four out of every 10 counties in the country use them. Florida may just be the trendsetter.

"This is the wave of the future, that states are looking to scrap their electronic touch screens and move to some other system that has a paper trail," said Michael McDonald of the Brookings Institute.

"It's not always good to get ahead of ourselves," he said. "The best way of doing elections is just the old-fashioned way, by paper."

Nationwide replacements could cost half a billion dollars. The death of the touch screen won't be cheap. To replace the machines with an $8,000 optical reader means $555 million out of taxpayers' pockets.

Next week, New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat, will introduce legislation in the House that would require paper ballots by 2008. His bill will call for $300 million to help counties buy machines.

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