Recalling Ellyn Bogdanoff's first election win

Ellyn Bogdanoff's first election win (after losing races for the Broward School Board and the state Senate in the 1990s) was incredibly close.

Here's the story I wrote with former Sun Sentinel staff writer Kathy Bushouse when Bogdanoff was finally certified as the winner on Jan. 12, 2004:

  A heated recount for a state House seat finally ended Monday night, but the six-day wait for a winner has reignited demands for assurances that electronic voting machines are accurate.
    Ellyn Bogdanoff's 12-vote victory margin over Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Oliver Parker ultimately held up in the House District 91 race, but controversy swirled after 137 voters in parts of Boca Raton and coastal Broward County went to the polls but didn't cast a vote for any candidate.
    State Rep. Joe Negron doesn't think that many people would go to the polls without voting.
    The result raises suspicions about the accuracy of the electronic equipment. But the absence of a paper trail means there's nothing that can be done to verify the results shown by the electronic devices.
    Negron, a member of the state House Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections and chairman of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation, said he would favor a printed record for the voting machines. He said he would raise the issue to the subcommittee next week.
    "It's a bad situation. I think it needs to be corrected," Negron, R-Stuart, said Monday. "You can't have an election floating in cyberspace."
    Just three of the so-called "undervotes" were in Palm Beach County. The remainder were in Broward County, which has most of District 91's voters and uses different voting equipment.
    "If I lost the election by 12 votes and I found out 134 people [in Broward County] came to vote and somehow didn't vote, I'd be apoplectic," Negron said. "I'm not buying for one minute that 134 people went in to vote and showed their ID and got into the booth, and did everything they needed to do, and then didn't [vote]."
    Negron said he has always been uneasy about electronic voting with no paper backup. "Voting without a paper trail to me is a recipe for a potential disaster in the presidential election, which is going to be close," he added.
    Negron's sentiment was echoed by state Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach, Palm Beach County's other member of the House elections subcommittee.
    Gannon said she is about to introduce legislation that would require a paper record of votes cast on the electronic machines.
    Her proposal would require outfitting each machine with a printer that produces a paper record of the voter's intentions that could be used if equipment failed or a close race required a recount. She said the printers might also be configured to allow voters to take a second copy with them when they leave the polls.
    County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore said the machines already are equipped to provide printed records of ballots cast in case of a manual recount.
    The records show a candidate's ballot position and what candidate's number was selected by each voter who used each machine, she said. But there's no way to determine the intent of those who don't choose a candidate in one or more races, LePore added.
    The Sequoia voting machines issue three warnings to those who haven't voted in all races on a ballot, in case the voter may have accidentally skipped a race on the list, LePore said. Voters aren't required to make a decision on every race.
    Printers available from Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of Palm Beach County's voting machines, cost about $500 each, said Alfie Charles, vice president of business development for Sequoia. That means it would cost the county at least $2.5 million to outfit all 5,000 voting machines.
    County Commissioner Burt Aaronson hopes the federal government would come up with some money for printers but said it's a good investment even if local taxpayers have to foot the bill. "The only way that it's not a worthwhile expenditure is if you don't care whether you get an honest count," he said.
    State Senate Minority Leader Ron Klein -- who supports legislation to require a paper trail -- said he doesn't think the District 91 race will persuade legislators to impose it. "I don't think the Legislature wants to do anything about it," said Klein, D-Boca Raton.
    Because of the slim margin, state law required a recount in both counties.
    Bogdanoff's closest competitor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Oliver Parker, had said the voting machines in South Florida are illegal because voters' actual ballots can't be counted by hand. Broward County Attorney Ed Dion dismissed that claim.
    Staff Writer Jeremy Milarsky contributed to this report.