Elections Supervisors: Delay HAVA 2012 Deadline
Local election officials have urged lawmakers to delay implementation of a 2007 law requiring all counties to provide federally approved voting equipment for disabled voters by 2012.
Citing the costs and existing debts, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections wants lawmakers to hold off until new technology may become available and counties have a chance to get on firmer financial ground.
“With the economic downturn in our state, right now is not the time to be asking our county commissions to invest $35 million in a new voting system in a state that has gone through many conversions since the year 2000,” said Bill Cowles, Orange County Supervisor of Elections and FSASE president.
In 2007, Florida lawmakers voted to turn Florida into a paper ballot state. The only exclusion was that disabled voters would still be allowed to vote on touch screens with no paper trail until 2012. That was because touch screens are the only method by which blind voters could cast a ballot without help because of the voting machines’ audio capabilities. After 2012, voting machines will be required to both have a paper trail and audio capabilities for the blind to meet the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act.
But most elections costs are borne by the counties and Cowles told members of the House Economic Development & Community Affairs Policy Council that counties are still paying for recent changes already required under state law.
The 2012 change will require counties to purchase $23 million in new machinery to comply with HAVA requirements. Yet counties still owe more than $12 million for machines already purchased for the 2008 election cycle.
Joining local supervisors in asking for a delay is the Florida Association of Counties, which formally called for lawmakers to push back the date that new equipment must be available, saying that the costs of compliance will fall on the shoulders of county governments.
Along with costs, Cowles said supervisors are also hoping they will have more choices when it comes time to make the switch. Currently only one vendor -- AutoMark -- has the paper trail technology that also allows hearing and visually-impaired voters to cast ballots. Given more time, supervisors are hoping that other options will be available.
Council chairman Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola, said he’d like to find out how much it is costing local governments on a per-voter basis to provide the equipment because not all disabled voters use the technology. Cowles said that in the 2008 General Election, which experienced a record turn out,. 12,697 voters availed themselves of the technology.
“I’d like to know how much we’ve spent, how much we’ve ponied up,” Murzin said. “I’m sure that number is going to be very interesting.”