FL Supreme Court Justice: 'What's Wrong With Getting Elections Right?'
FL SoS in Response: 'Why Throw Monkey Wrench Into Outcomes?'
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2008, 2:09pm PT  

"Why in the world would either the Legislature or the secretary of state or anybody object to local elections officials trying to ensure that their system operates as intended and that they get it right?" asked FL Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead as he crawled out of his cave to officiate at a hearing yesterday in Tallahassee.

The nearly-unheard of voice of reason momentarily reared its lonely head on Wednesday, if perhaps just temporarily, from the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole down which American elections have almost entirely disappeared.

Anstead was questioning attorneys representing Sarasota's still-unresigned, democracy-hating Election Supervisor Kathy Dent and FL's Sec. of State Kurt Browning. The pair are attempting to nullify the democratic (small "d") citizens' ballot initiative successfully voted in by a majority of Sarasota voters in 2006. The initiative called for improvements in the county's election system --- including paper ballots with post-election audits --- in hopes of offering more accuracy and integrity.

Needless to say, Dent and Browning are against that idea.

The following snippet of yesterday's extraordinary exchange --- including the attorney's remarkable response to Anstead's question --- comes from a Sarasota Herald Tribune report today.

Silly Harry. Clearly he needs to get out more...

A lower court ruled in favor of the citizens group. But last fall the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that election laws must be uniform statewide and that state law supersedes county law on election measures, meaning Sarasota County cannot have a more aggressive auditing procedure than the rest of the state.

At Wednesday's hearing, justices questioned why, if the Legislature wanted uniform elections rules across the state, counties are permitted to use voting machines from different manufacturers.

By far the most intense exchange came between Justice Harry Anstead and the lawyer representing Browning, Pete Antonacci.

Anstead questioned the reasoning behind the state not wanting local governments to adopt stricter election checks and balances.

"Why in the world would either the Legislature or the secretary of state or anybody object to local elections officials trying to ensure that their system operates as intended and that they get it right?" Anstead said.

Antonacci said the county's amendment "interferes with the counting, recounting and certification of votes."

Anstead wanted to know how.

"It will happen, as night follows day, that there will be inconsistent results and those inconsistent results will be known" before certification, Antonacci said.

"Well that seems to me to follow the policy of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," Anstead said.

"That there are problems there that we don't want to know."

Antonacci responded, "When you're going to have dueling numbers, it's going to throw a monkey wrench into every outcome."

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