Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org
Last night Lou Dobbs doubled the reporting on his semi-regular "Democracy At Risk" segment. Kitty Pilgrim reported on the recent breakdown of the system in Volusia County where but for the local newspaper and stalwart activists the county would have been able to bury discrepancies in their recording of votes in their primary election. Also Bill Schneider reported on how important the November general election is and that there are teams of lawyers ready to step in and take action.
The text-transcript of Tuesday's segment on Lou Dobbs Tonight follows in full...
Bill Schneider reports from West Palm Beach, Florida where local officials are saying not to expect election results very soon after the polls close. Both sides lining up legions of lawyers ready to challenge election night numbers.
We begin with Kitty Pilgrim --- Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this November, many counties will use touch screen electronic voting machines for the first time ever. The trial run for many of them was their primary. In one Florida county, the problems were not apparent during or even right after the primary. They turned up later.
PILGRIM (voice-over): Primary day, September 5th, was the first time Volusia County, Florida used touch screen voting machines without a paper record. The local community newspaper wanted the vote tallies from the election headquarters but found its request stalled.
BARB SHEPHERD, PUBLISHER, DELANO-DELTONA BEACON: We considered this just basic election information of a nature that we had never had particular trouble in getting before. One thing I think is very important to consider is as elections get more electronic, records become more computerized. I don't think that we can allow that to take those records out of the reach of the ordinary citizens who need to see them.
PILGRIM: The local newspaper ended up filing a lawsuit because they were asked to pay more than $100 for the records. When the records were finally released, several problems turned up. They were issues the public and candidates found out to late to contest the results.
SUSAN PINCHON, FLORIDA FAIR ELECTIONS COALITION: The supervisor of elections just kept saying they weren't ready yet. Meanwhile, the contest of election period expired on September 22nd and that's the date those records were finally released.
PILGRIM: Final vote tallies are recorded on a central location on tape. After sorting through the tapes, the local newspaper says, the tally tapes for the voting machines in at least seven precincts were missing. County officials said poll workers either failed to print them or threw them out.
And in more than a dozen precincts, the tapes had been interrupted for an incomplete picture of the voting. The only records for the optical scan machines were printed 16 days after the election. The election supervisor says everything balances. She responded as quickly as she could. She gets several hundred public record requests a year.
PILGRIM: The newspaper says the records were missing and muddled. There was no way to verify the initial results. Now Florida does not require a paper trail and many think that is the only way to properly monitor results of an election --- Lou.
DOBBS: One would think, Kitty. Thank you very much.
No state stands as more of a symbol of flawed elections than the State of Florida. The Supreme Court ultimately weighed in on Florida's flawed counting of votes in the 2000 presidential election. This year, both sides are preparing for any controversy. Bill Schneider reports from West Palm Beach. Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Lou, it's one month to election day and the last day for new voters to register here in Florida and in 13 other states. Let the controversies begin.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Remember the Florida recount six years ago? Hanging chads, butterfly ballots, lawsuits. 2006 could be another endless election, where the day after Election Day, we still won't know who won. For one thing, this election could be very close with control of the House and Senate coming down to one or two seats. For another thing, we're already hearing controversy over new voting procedures like touch screen voting and paper trails.
BOB BENENSON, CQ.COM: Because if they're close, there are going to be protests and if there are protests, they're going to be based on some argument of irregularity and in a lot of cases it's going to be based on these now techniques and technologies.
SCHNEIDER: Neither side wants to be outlawyered, as many Democrats feel they were in 2000.
DEB MARKOWITZ, VERMONT SECRETARY OF STATE: In the targeted areas where there's targeted races, the political parties are getting teams of lawyers ready to go in. SCHNEIDER: There's concern about the security of the voting equipment.
KAY CLEM, INDIAN RIVER ELECTION SUPERVISOR: Everything is under 24/7 video surveillance so people can't access the equipment. We have pass codes that only certain people can get into the tabulation room.
SCHNEIDER: The biggest problem may be human error as we learned in this year's primaries.
BENENSON: Most of our elections are run by volunteers. And training them and making sure they know how the technology works.
SCHNEIDER: Plus issues involving who actually votes.
MARKOWITZ: It's the obligation of every person involved in running our elections to make sure that it's easy to vote and hard to cheat.
SCHNEIDER: A delicate balance and fertile ground for lawsuits. It's not Halloween yet but here's another scary scenario. Let's say the Senate ends up with 50 Democrats and 49 Republicans and Joe Lieberman gets elected in Connecticut as an independent. Lieberman could decide which party controls the Senate, because if he then goes Republican and you have a 50/50 tie, the tie-breaking vote would be in the hands of Vice President Cheney.
SCHNEIDER: Lieberman has pledged that he'll caucus with the Democrats. But the Republicans might make him a very attractive offer and remind him that the Democrats fired him in the Connecticut primary. This could get very interesting --- Lou.
DOBBS: Bill Schneider from West Palm Beach.