Testing of Computers in Sarasota's Congressional District begins by Mitch E. Perry

11/28/06

Today began the first step of a three-week audit that of electronic voting machines in Sarasota County that is being conducted all day long.

State auditors will be looking for evidence that computer programs, which tell the machines what to do, were changed in a way that would affect what voters saw on the screen or how the votes were recorded.

There were over 18,000 undervotes in the Congressional race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. Buchanan was certified as the winner last week , but Jennings has sued, asking a judge to either declare her the winner or have a revote.

One thing today’s test will NOT determine whether confusion caused by the design of the ballot s a contributing factor -- the 13th District race was listed on the same screen as the gubernatorial race.
But that ‘s what a Dartmouth College professor of Government says was the main problem after doing an exhaustive study of what happened in Sarasota County on election day..

Michael Herron – along with 3 other people – has just written a paper, called,�Ballot Formats, Touchscreens and Undervotes: A Study of the 2006 Midterm Elections in Florida�- in which he speculates that by using statistical models, there is a 90 percent chance that Jennings would have won the election had voting in Sarasota employed the machinery and ballots layout used in the other 4 counties in the District.

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In the 2nd part of our interview with Professor Herron, we asked him about his thesis – that a high profile contest – in this case, the Governors race, being on the same page or electronic screen as another race – in this case, the Congressional race – prompted many voters to miss the less famous race. Herron says that analysis of similar ballot designs in Charlotte and Lee Counties proves his theory – those Counties also had wide reports of undervotes (roll tape#1 o.q.�

That’s Dartmouth College Assistant Professor of Government, Mark Herron. To find his paper, go to the web at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~herron/cd13.pdf

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