Florida battles tumultuous elections past

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Voters began casting ballots Monday in Florida, encountering long lines at the polls and a few ballot box glitches four years after the 2000 presidential election fiasco.

The problems in Florida included a brief computer system crash in one county and voter complaints of incomplete paper ballots. But there were no early reports of problems with the ATM-like touch-screen voting machines introduced since the troubled 2000 election.

Florida’s early voting was touted partly as a way to avoid long lines on Nov. 2, but it turned out to be so popular that Lucien Gennaro, a police aide in Coral Springs, waited for an hour and finally had to leave for work.

“A lot of people who were waiting just left. I’ll try again tomorrow,” he said. “It was a little frustrating after what happened in 2000.”

Critics say the extended voting period increases opportunities for fraud. And some groups urged voters to ask for paper absentee ballots because of concerns about the touch-screen machines and the possibility of recounts. Voters can choose either method through Nov. 1.

State Rep. Shelley Vana said the absentee ballot she requested at a Palm Beach County site was missing one of its two pages, including proposed state constitutional amendments. She said election workers were indifferent when she pointed out the oversight.

“This is not a good start. If there are incomplete ballots out there, I can’t imagine I would be the only one getting it,” she said.

Palm Beach County elections supervisor Theresa LePore did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In Orange County, the computer system that lists eligible voters went down for about 10 minutes shortly after voting began, said Margaret Dunn, the senior deputy elections supervisor. She speculated a faulty Internet connection may have been to blame.

Several of Broward County’s 14 polling places had trouble linking their computers to a supervisor’s office to confirm voter eligibility, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman at the Secretary of State Glenda Hood’s office. Workers used paper lists and called the supervisor’s office to verify eligibility, Nash said.