Show up Thursday, August 5th, 2 PM--Stand by the people of Sarasota County to defend the SAFE audit
- Concerned Voters,and dedicated SAFE volunteers and supporters:If you are in the Sarasota County area Thursday, August 5th, please attend the special meeting of the Sarasota County Commissioners at 2 PM in the Commission Chambers at 1660 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota. That's when they will make their final decision on whether to appeal the negative ruling of the judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit on the status of our county charter amendment for paper ballots and mandatory audits of election equipment, or whether they will support the will of the voters of Sarasota County in another way.If you can attend, please thank Susette Bryan (she is the lovely blonde lady who stood with me in this 4 year lawsuit on behalf of the rights of all voters to know that their votes count accurately as they are cast), and say, "Thank you for standing up for the rights of all voters to fair elections. Thank you. We have made great strides, getting verifiable paper ballots and audits in Sarasota County and in the state of Florida. We suffered a setback this spring, when the State gave all powers over elections to itself in HB131, but we must press on for verified elections statewide, to preserve democracy in Florida and in this country." .
Sarasota County commissioners to hold special meeting
The Sarasota County commissioners will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, in the Commission Chambers at the County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. The meeting has been scheduled at the request of County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh to discuss the decision in the case of Board of County Commissioners of Sarasota County, Florida v. Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections.
A copy of the agenda and the decision are available on the countys website at www.scgov.net by clicking Meetings on Demand.
Here are the two most recent articles on our County Charter amendment, that so many of you fought so hard for over the past four years.
Election audits not needed, judge tells Sarasota County
SARASOTA COUNTY: New state law overrides local charter, he rulesPublished: Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Sarasota elections officials have called off plans to run an audit on the results of next month's primary elections following a court decision that determined the audit was not required.
Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent had already received bids from two companies that would randomly select 5 percent of all ballots and recount them, one of the requirements in a county charter voters passed in 2006.
But a judge this week ruled that state election laws trump the county charter requirement, the latest turn in a back-and-forth legal battle that went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
Dent says the ruling means the legal fight is finally over and her office does not have to spend the money to hire an independent auditor for the Aug. 24 election.
An audit would cost less than $200,000, according to the bid documents filed with the county.
The president of Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, which has fought for four years to uphold the county charter, urged county officials to appeal the latest decision.
"They should stand up for our charter, they should stand up for the will of the voters," SAFE president Kindra Muntz said.
Circuit Judge Charles Roberts on Wednesday ruled that a state election law enacted this year sets out an audit procedure and does not permit additional audits.
The decision throws a lawsuit out of court just a few months after the Florida Supreme Court gave it new life.
In February, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the charter amendment requiring an audit of 5 percent of all ballots did not conflict with state law.
But the legislature enacted the new law in May.
It says that the state rules govern elections, and attorneys for Sarasota County contended the additional audits in the charter conflicted with it.
Elections officials lobbied for the new law that appears directed at the Sarasota County charter provision.
In March, Kathleen Schneider, an assistant Sarasota County attorney, messaged a lobbyist for a state association of elections supervisors and suggested language for the bill that gave sole authority for elections to the state.
Muntz said the 2006 charter brought paper ballots to the county and led the way for the entire state to move to paper ballots after several high-profile issues with electronic voting machines.
The charter also pushed county officials to purchase a paper ballot system for visually impaired voters, who must still use electronic ballots in other counties.
SAFE pushed the audits as a way to make elections transparent and improve voter confidence in the system.
Muntz said that push is now focused on fighting the new law passed in May, along with lobbying efforts from groups such as the Florida Voters Coalition and the Florida Fair Elections Coalition.
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Detour on election audits
With local measure apparently dead, seek a change in state law
Published: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
In 2006, Sarasota County voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment requiring the end of touch-screen voting and the beginning of stronger election audits.
Nearly four years later, their wishes have been only partly fulfilled.
The county's touch-screen voting machines were replaced with a paper-ballot system. But the rigorous, post-election audits envisioned in the charter amendment never materialized.
They were defeated by politics and lengthy litigation that apparently reached its end last week, when a circuit judge ruled that the county's audit requirements overstepped state law.
At this point -- the county charter case has already been to the state Supreme Court and back -- it doesn't make sense to appeal. That would be akin to buying an expensive whip in order to beat a dead horse.
The better course, we believe, is to seek a change in state law. Instead of fighting for stronger ballot auditing in Sarasota County , push for it statewide. That would provide the consistency and uniformity the courts say is legally required.
Florida election law includes an audit requirement, but it is weak. It directs election supervisors to wait until outcomes have been certified, then re-tally ballots in no more than 2 percent of the precincts. The audit need only be for one item on the ballot.
Sarasota County's overruled charter measure was stronger: It called for an independent auditor to re-tally 5 percent of precincts, before certification, including every item on the ballot. This would produce a more statistically valid confirmation of the original results.
The county's approach is more costly in the short term. But in the long run, it could enhance trust in elections and curtail expensive disputes. Budget-challenged Florida should phase in this audit standard, or a reasonably rigorous compromise.
Meanwhile, no one should lose sight of the larger challenge: Each election contains many moving parts, all of which must function smoothly to ensure that every vote counts.
The best outcomes depend on accessible registration policies and polling places; accurate, nondiscriminatory voter rolls; secure voting systems; easy-to-use ballots; well-trained election workers; clear procedural laws (with able, impartial officials to follow them); equitable campaign finance rules; good candidates; and knowledgeable, eager voters.
We've still got a long way to go.