Florida Shifting to Voting With Paper Trail

After the hanging chads of the 2000 Florida election electronic voting machines were installed to attempt to prevent a repetition of that fiasco. Instead they created problems of their own. The New York Times reports that Florida is now moving to voting systems with a paper trail:

Gov. Charlie Crist announced plans on Thursday to abandon the touch-screen voting machines that many of Florida’s counties installed after the disputed 2000 presidential election. The state will instead adopt a system of casting paper ballots counted by scanning machines in time for the 2008 presidential election.

Voting experts said Florida’s move, coupled with new federal voting legislation expected to pass this year, could be the death knell for the paperless electronic touch-screen machines. If as expected the Florida Legislature approves the $32.5 million cost of the change, it would be the nation’s biggest repudiation yet of touch-screen voting, which was widely embraced after the 2000 recount as a state-of-the-art means of restoring confidence that every vote would count.

Having a Republican such as Crist champion election reform might help end the feeling that it is a Democratic issue, leading many Republicans to dismiss election reform as merely an attempt to dispute elections the Democrats lost. This trend towards requiring a paper ballot is also being seen in other states:

Other states that rushed to buy the touch-screen machines are also abandoning them. Earlier this week, the Virginia Senate passed a bill that would phase out the machines as they wore out, and replace them with optical scanners. The Maryland legislature also seems determined to order a switch from the paperless touch screens, though it is not clear yet if it will require the use of optical scanners or just allow paper printers to be added to the touch screens.

On Monday, Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, plans to introduce a bill in Congress that would require all voting machines nationwide to produce paper records through which voters can verify that their ballots were recorded correctly. A majority of House members have endorsed the proposal, and the changes have strong support among Senate Democrats. Mr. Holt’s bill would also substantially toughen the requirements for the touch-screen machines that have printers, and experts say this could give even more impetus to the shift toward the optical scanning systems…

Election experts estimate that paperless electronic machines were used by about 30 percent of voters nationwide in 2006. But their reliability has increasingly come under scrutiny, as has the difficulty of doing recounts without a paper trail. Federal technology experts concluded late last year that paperless touch-screen machines could not be secured from tampering.

Gore Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize


In addition to being nominated for an Academy Award, Al Gore has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to draw the world’s attention to global warming. While it is common in the United States for Al Gore to be attacked by right wingers who deny the scientific evidence for global warming (along with denying the validity of evolution, and possibly believing the world is flat), Gore’s nomination bridged the ideological devide:

“A prerequisite for winning the Nobel Peace Prize is making a difference, and Al Gore has made a difference,” Conservative Member of Parliament Boerge Brende, a former minister of environment and then of trade, told The Associated Press.

Brende said he joined political opponent Heidi Soerensen of the Socialist Left Party to nominate Gore as well as Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier before the nomination deadline expired Thursday.

“Al Gore, like no other, has put climate change on the agenda. Gore uses his position to get politicians to understand, while Sheila works from the ground up,” Brende said.

The prize winner is typically announced in October.

Harry Potter Release Date Announced

Mark your calendars for a late night trip to the book store–the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be released July 21. As with previous books, it will be available for sale at midnight. The last book was the fastest selling book in history, selling 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours. I suspect the final book will top this. While I bought one copy of previous books which was shared at home, I bet I’m not the only one in this situation who will feel compelled to buy more than one copy of the final copy as it will be harder to wait to start the book.

Harry Potter also made the news recently when pictures were published of Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry in the movies. He currently has a nude role in the play Equus. I wonder if the religious right, which has already opposed the Harry Potter books, will use this as an additional reason to boycott the book.

Richard Dawkins Answers Questions

The Independent has a question and answer session with Richard Dawkins in which readers sent in the questions. Here are some of the questions:

What is there to distinguish your intolerance from that of a religious fanatic? TONY REYNOLDS, By e-mail

It would be intolerant if I advocated the banning of religion, but of course I never have. I merely give robust expression to views about the cosmos and morality with which you happen to disagree. You interpret that as ‘intolerance’ because of the weirdly privileged status of religion, which expects to get a free ride and not have to defend itself. If I wrote a book called The Socialist Delusion or The Monetarist Delusion, you would never use a word like intolerance. But The God Delusion sounds automatically intolerant. Why? What’s the difference?

I have a (you might say fanatical) desire for people to use their own minds and make their own choices, based upon publicly available evidence. Religious fanatics want people to switch off their own minds, ignore the evidence, and blindly follow a holy book based upon private ‘revelation’. There is a huge difference.

Einstein, Newton, Bacon, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle and Faraday all believed in God. Does it bother you that such eminent scientists might not have been ” deluded”? BEN TAYLOR, by e-mail

It was hard to be an atheist before The Origin of Species. Einstein is the only member of your list who was born into the post-Darwinian world, and it is no accident that he was also the only one who didn’t believe in God. He declared: “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. ”

Are people who advocate intelligent design stupid, and do you think natural selection will operate to remove them from future generations? ADAM KHAN, The Hague, Netherlands

The majority are ignorant, which is not the same thing as stupid. Natural selection will not remove ignorance from future generations. Education may, and that is the hope to which we must cling.

You backed an anti-war candidate in the last election. Would you be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power? ANTHONY SHEEN, Macclesfield

Oh, how silly of me. You see, I had this foolish memory that Saddam Hussein was given an ultimatum on the eve of war that if he surrendered his weapons of mass destruction war would be averted. Silly me, I thought that meant the purpose of the war was to remove his WMD. Oh, so now I understand. All along, the purpose of the war to to remove Saddam Hussein. Oh, I see (copyright: J Cleese). Now the Taliban are coming back to power, because Bush and Blair took their eye off Afghanistan and charged into Iraq instead. You know, horrible as Saddam Hussein was, I believe I’d rather have him than the Taliban. Last week in Afghanistan, a teacher was disembowelled and torn to pieces by four motorbikes pulling in opposite directions, for the religious crime of teaching girls algebra. I don’t think even Saddam Hussein executed people for teaching girls algebra.

Is global warming a threat to the human species? ROBIN THOMPSON, Oxford

Yes. You could say that the human species is a threat to the human species. I recommend Al Gore’s film on global warming. See it and weep. Not just for the human species. Weep for what we could have had in 2000, but for the vote-rigging in Jeb Bush’s Florida.

If you died and arrived at the gates of Heaven, what would you say to God to justify your lifelong atheism? VALERIE JACKSON, Richmond

I’d quote Bertrand Russell: “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.” But why is God assumed to care so much about whether you believe in him? Maybe he wants you to be generous, kind, loving, and honest – and never mind what you believe.

Edwards Builds Up Net Team

John Edwards has been really concentrating on improving his strength in the blogosphere. Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon is taking over as blogmaster. Melissa McEwan, better known as Shakespeare’s Sister, has been hired as Netroots Coordinator.

Howard Dean made tremendous use of the internet during 2003 and build up considerable support in the netroots–which didn’t do him a bit of good in 2004 when people went out to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll see if Edwards has any better success. He certainly is going all out in utilizing every new bell and whistle which has been added to blogs since the Dean campaign. It’s heavy on features like diaries and voting for posts to go to the main page, and leaves out those boring issue papers which just don’t fit into this feel-good campaign. Personally I think that the design of his blog risks repeating the mistakes of the Dean campaign in creating an echo chamber for supporters while being way too much for attracting the casual web surfer over to join the conversation and perhaps become a new supporter. On the other hand, concentrating on pizaaz over substance is perfect for representing John Edwards.