-By Melissa E. Holsman
August 6, 2012- As the white-hot presidential contest heats up in this battleground state, a newly released national voting equipment study gives Florida passing marks — except for one glaring exception.
Aside from using paper ballots, the ability to recount those ballots is the single most important means to ensure a fair election, many experts say, and Florida falls flat.
At stake are the ballots of 11.4 million Florida voters and 29 electoral votes, more than enough to decide a tight election. After all, the 326-page report written by nonprofit advocacy groups Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation, as well as Rutgers Law School's Constitutional Litigation Clinic, points out that George W. Bush won Florida in 2000 by a mere 537 votes.
Florida's myriad voting systems are ranked "generally good" by the report — the rough equivalent of a "C" — in part because the state mandates the use of paper ballots for everyone except some disabled voters. Martin County's touch screen equipment and St. Lucie and Indian River county's optical scan machines all produce paper ballots, officials confirmed.
But Florida's rules for tracking those paper ballots after an election come up short, the report concluded, and that's key, given the fact that virtually all elections systems have demonstrated some type of technological failure.
"We all know computers crash," said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause's Voter Integrity Campaign. "Voting machines are no different."