Supervisors of elections from 5 Tampa bay area counties gathered this morning at the Hillsborough county elections office, to launch a get out the vote campaign, aimed at registering voters for the 2006 primary and general election. ------------

ACT-Browning "before 2000 election’s no body paid attention to they do.."

Pasco county supervisor of elections Kurt Browning, was joined by supervisors from Hillsborough, Sarasota, Pinellas, and Sumter county, and Representatives from various community groups--it was one of 12 simultaneous press conferences throughout the state, held to launch the Vote 2006- Make Freedom count campaign.

ACT-Browning "when you look at Florida, we are years ahead of the rest of the nation, we’ve been forced to make changes quickly and it will continue.."

A televised message from Secretary of State Sue Cobb was broadcast, promoting the series of registration activities planned for the next few months. March will be register at work month, April will be register at school month, May will see a focus on registering employees of local merchants, and July will feature registration out reach to houses of worship. Pinellas county supervisor Deborah Clack said the county already conducts mock elections in the schools, beginning in elementary school, and she hopes that having a month of voter registration in the schools will help engage young people in the electoral process.

ACT-Clark "we know that over the past few decades, voter participation has decreased dramatically, so we are hoping to be the catalyst in reversing trend

Karen Krauss, the elections supervisor for Sumter county, said that rapid growth is forcing districts to be redrawn every 2 years, and it makes it necessary to continually educate new residents on how the local voting system works.

ACT-Krauss "they’re new, they’re from up north, they don’t know what a touch screen machine is, they did it differently, we didn’t do that...we have to teach them how we do it..."

Clark explained that under the new Florida voter registration system, keeping records on voters and their whereabouts is now in the hands of the state.

ACT-Clark "the individual supervisors are no longer in control of the database..change of address, can update if they change their name, any changes, entered into database and change would be made.."

WMNF asked the supervisors what progress has been made in terms of getting a verified paper trail for peoples votes, which is a request being made more frequently in communities across the country, and was one of the recommendations of a commission studying elections in the US, chaired By Former President Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James Baker. Hillsborough county elections supervisor Buddy Johnson responded first.

ACT-Johnson The secretary of state is looking at new technologies, we are looking at it..for our particular voting system there was no way...I will say for hills, our sequoia system we are comfortable that’s one of the issues we’ve worked out...its matter of voter confidence then that’s the direction we will take as supervisors.."

Pinellas supervisor Deborah Clark said she doesn’t thing a paper trail is needed.

ACT-Clark "we do keep an open mind, but Susan McManus and the Collins center did a study after 2004, and overwhelmingly the voters were comfortable with their voting systems. sometimes there is a stir because a few people are not comfortable and the squeaky wheel gets the grease no the majority.."

Browning said Pasco County’s touch screen machines work quite well.

ACT-Browning "they are reliable and accurate and secure..confidence is high....the supervisors postion has been we don’t think paper receipts are necessary.."

Browning also said that if the supervisors are directed to by congress, or the state legislature they will install paper receipt printers. Joyce Russell, the Hillsborough county African American affairs liaison asked about accuracy of the system in place to purge convicted felons from the voter roles. That system has wrongly disqualified thousands of people from voting over the past few years. Sarasota supervisor Kathy Dent said that under the new system, a packet of information is put together for each probable felon, and that the faulty lists of the past were often ignored.

ACT-Dent "the local supervisors have not been quick to respond to those lists, we rely on local processes, and new system has a lot more checks, the social security, dates of birth, will be verified, dept of corrections, so the state is required to do a lot more verification before they notify supervisor, we have a lot more confidence.."

Janee Murphy, the chair of the Hillsborough county Democratic party, proposed that the supervisors publish a brochure listing the things they have done to address voters concerns, because in the wake of the 2000 and 2004 elections, there are many doubts about the integrity of Florida’s voting systems.

ACT-Murphy "what I would like to see is a pamphlet, paper trail if its addressed, if there has been a study McManus, we would love to see that...purging felons, if they are putting together a packet, then it would be great to let them know that they can vote im asking for that we see issues are addressing, it should be put in a pamphlet.."

Several of the supervisors, including Hillsborough County’s Buddy Johnson responded that he thinks most people do believe the system works.

ACT-Johnson "I think the voters are confident, they are very confident, those of you is a very small percentage.."

WMNF asked Betty Reed of the Hillsborough county NAACP about the supervisors’ assertion that there is high voter confidence

ACT-reed "I don’t feel the same way, there’s a lot of people in the African Americans, although the supervisors are confident, but if you are on the inside looking out you know, but the person outside isn’t sure, it makes you uncomfortable...we have to stay active we are losing young voters, who don’t think their votes count..ARE THEY OUTR OFOTUCH< IN DENIAL?. I think out of touch, because you must be a grassroots person to know who is not going to the polls, so why do you not vote. I don’t think we get a percentage of that...I wont say out of touch, but need to touch the grassroots.."

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