Sarasota holds mock election

07/11/08 Virginia Hoffman
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Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent held a mock election was held this week. County Commissioners want to be sure their new $2.6-million optical scan voting system is working correctly. They asked Dent to test the new machines and software.

The County purchased this system to replace touch screen machines when a referendum calling for a “paper trail” passed in 2006. This is the same election where a controversial 18,000 undervotes occurred between two candidates vying for the congressional seat previously held by Katherine Harris.

In a hugh warehouse nestled between cow pastures, dozens of optical scan tabulators were cranking hundreds of mock ballots fed into them by staff. A total of 199 machines were purchased. The public tested three machines at regular polling locations. The remaining 196 were tested under public view. Dent was onsite observing the process.

The Sarasota Democratic Party has formed an election watch committee. Larry Altmon is a member. His involvement with election systems began when he sat on a Citizens Advisory Committee for the county. Their recommendations factored in on the decision by Commissioners to scrap the touch screen system.

By noontime inside the Sarasota County Terrace building, nearly 100 people had already stopped to mock vote on a single optical scan tabulator. The mock election ended at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m. County Commissioners filed into elections headquarters to perform a mock canvass board and mandatory audit Absentee ballots completed by residents of Assisted Care facilities were feed into different tabulators.

The final step to complete the mock election test was to practice a mandatory audit.

Sarasota Democratic Party

[Sarasota Supervisor of Elections] (

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