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Florida: County Petition Drive For Verifiable Elections PDF  | Print |  Email
By Kindra MuntzSarasota Alliance for Fair Elections   
January 30, 2006
Is the public fully behind your efforts for verified voting?

County wide petition drives can get people motivated and change the law.  If you are in a home rule charter county, you may be able to put a referendum on the November, 2006 ballot to require voter verified paper ballots and mandatory random independent audits of election results. You must start soon.  This action can amend your county charter by a vote of the people.  Petition drives can energize the public, wake up our elected leaders, and give the force of law to our requirement for paper ballots and mandatory audits.

Sarasota County, Florida has launched just such a petition drive after crafting its petition over the past six months. (See Sarasota Petition) It is attached herewith. It defines voter verified paper ballots as the official record in all elections, and requires an audit of 5% of the precincts and 5% of all ballots cast in Early Voting, Absentee ballots, and Military and Overseas (UOCAVA) ballots.  It mandates use of optical scanners and paper ballots, or hand counted paper ballots, as opposed to the “paperless” touchscreen direct record electronic (DRE) voting machines we have now in Sarasota County.  It is unlikely our County would use hand counted paper ballots, but the precedent has been set for precinct based optical scanners in 52 out of 67 Florida counties and for central office optical scanners for absentee ballots in all 67 counties.

Key arguments for optical scanners are that they
1)    are used now in 52 out of 67 counties in Florida
2)    are 40% cheaper to operate year over year than DRE’s (see the Myerson report)
3)    utilize the voter verified paper ballot needed to ensure voter confidence in election results

Despite the recent pullout of ES&S from Leon County, and the still pending certification of the Automark in Florida after completion of all required testing, the public needs to demand optical scanners and paper ballots, and force the issue.  If people learn our voting rights are at stake and know there is a ballot marker available for the disabled that works with optical scanners, we can demand verified voting for all.  Voters of all political parties must rise up together to show our state and Federal officials the public is waking up to their “business plan” to disenfranchise us by forcing unverifiable electronic voting machines on our counties.

Some county officials have indicated privately that, if they had it to do over again, they would have bought optical scanners.  They feel stuck because of the 4.7 million dollars that they spent in 2002 for iVotronic DRE’s.  They need a way to justify further expense for new voting machines and the motivation to do it.  A public surge of concern about our DRE’s in Sarasota County and demand for optical scanners might provide the motivation.  If we achieve a referendum on the ballot in November, along with public pressure from other counties, our legislators must confront our demand for verified elections for all. They need to hear from their constituents.  The public needs to wake up and see our democracy slipping away.

Here are the basic requirements in our county to launch a county wide citizens’ petition initiative.  Yours may be similar:

    get a copy of your county charter
    make sure it can be amended by petition initiative (check the requirements--filing dates, number of petitions required)
    draft your petition (consider our model)
    have it reviewed by a local attorney, who knows your state and federal election laws
    have the petition “approved” by the Supervisor of Elections office.  In practice, they just check the technical requirements:  our ballot title must be 15 words or less; the ballot summary, 75 words or less; the petitions must contain the name, street address, city, state, county, zip code of the petitioner.  They must indicate whether this is a change of address for the person, give their voter registration number or date of birth, their signature as it appears on their voter ID card (as on file with the SOE’s office) and the date signed.
    create a nonpartisan political committee (PAC) with at least a Chairperson and a Treasurer
    file the PAC with the County and the State (no fee required)
    if you have no funds to start, you can file an Affidavit of Undue Burden to waive the 10 cents per petition cost of verifying petition signatures at the SOE’s office

Our target filing date is July 17 to get on the ballot this fall. We hope to complete the petition drive sooner, before our snowbirds depart.  

We are talking with other counties in Florida to launch similar petition drives.

On our petition, we provide an optional space for the person’s phone number and email address, if they wish to keep informed about the progress of our petition drive, or help out.

We provide the P.O. Box to which to mail the petition, and a separate P.O. Box to which contributors can mail checks.

We are finalizing a website (www.safevote.org) to draw supporters to this effort.

We have formed a Board consisting of members of various political parties and emphasize that this is a truly nonpartisan effort for the benefit of all voters.  We reach out to all organizations for speaking engagements and volunteer help.  We are beginning to win media support and endorsements from local organizations.  We will not accept endorsements from political parties.

Citizens are speaking out for verified voting at all “Open to the Public” sessions of our County Commissioners meetings.  They are calling in to the newspapers on the hotline demanding paper ballots.  They are writing letters to the editor.  More and more people are becoming aware of the issues at stake.  The good news is that if we succeed, our referendum will be voted into law.
 
It is actually beginning to be fun.

Can you launch a similar petition drive in your county?
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