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Florida: Court Hears Arguments on Voting Law PDF Print Email
By Kathleen Haughney, New Service of Florida   
March 10, 2009
Originally posted here.

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over whether individual counties should be able to require different election standards than the state imposes.

The case stems from an amendment passed in Sarasota County in 2006 that banned touch screen voting machines in the county and required that 5 percent of the voting returns be audited within 24 hours of the election. Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said that state law pre-empted the local law and that the auditing process would interfere with certification.

A smaller audit is typically done after election results are certified in each county.

Peter Antonacci, an attorney for Browning, argued that allowing individual counties to overrule the state could cause confusion and create a situation where auditors could interfere with an elections supervisor's ability to certify the election and announce the winners.
 
"Do you have 68 rules for auditing, and recounting or do you have one rule, uniformity?" said Antonacci.

Many members of the court said they understood why local governments might want a stricter election code, but worried how it could affect election results and whether it would spur a rash of lawsuits from candidates who decide to challenge the results.

"It seems to me that (a more extensive auditing requirement) is the equivalent of a partial recount," Chief Justice Peggy Quince said. But later she added that she wasn't sure there was a reason a community couldn't have a stricter code than the state.

Thomas Shults, an attorney for Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, Inc., told the court that the stricter audit standards would simply provide the process with greater accountability. If it turns out the voting machines are malfunctioning, Shults said, the public needs to know. He also noted that audits are not done strictly by voting officials. Candidates can audit results as well in the presence of someone from the elections supervisor's office.

"Anyone can go in and audit," he said.

The court doesn't have a timetable for when it might rule in the case.
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