International Election Monitors Take on Florida

[ Catholic peace group Pax Christi will bring international monitors to Florida to help ensure fair elections this time around, according to the Reuters. This is especially important, given what happened last time around. –doclalor ]

Mon Mar 8, 3:38 PM ET

by Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) – An international group that usually monitors elections in developing democracies said Monday it would take up posts at Florida precincts in November in hopes of averting another debacle when voters pick the next U.S. president.

Four years after Florida became the object of international ridicule, officials for the Catholic group Pax Christi USA will place monitors from 30 countries at polls in four Florida counties that were at the center of the 2000 U.S. presidential election dispute.

The Washington-based group will ask its international organization to send monitors to Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval counties, where voting irregularities kept the outcome of the 2000 presidential race in doubt for more than a month.

The national coordinator for Pax Christi USA, Dave Robinson, said Florida’s 2000 election woes were symbolic of errors across the United States that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters.

“Normally, Americans go to developing nations to ensure fair, transparent and free elections,” Robinson said.

“We felt it was necessary to bring our friends from other parts of the world to the United States to bear witness in order that we might have a fair transparent and free elections.”

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said equating Florida’s election system with that of a Third World country was insulting. He also said Florida had put in place machinery and voter education programs that made it a model for the nation.

“This is all part of some politically motivated thing that tries to scare people to somehow think their vote is not going to count,” Bush said. “That’s hogwash, hogwash.”

Florida voters split down the middle in the Nov. 7, 2000, election, spawning court battles over whether and how to count imperfect ballots. The battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner by 537 votes, which put him in the White House.

Florida has banished the balky punchcard ballots that made a household word of “chad,” the bits of cardboard dislodged when the cards were punched.

Florida counties now use paper ballots that are penciled in like standardized tests and read via optical scanners, or electronic touch-screen machines similar to automated bank teller machines.

Some counties have had glitches with the latter. U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday asking a judge to order ballot printers that would produce a paper record in the 15 counties that use touch-screen machines. Without them, he said, there is no way to conduct a manual recount.


[ Here is a follow-up press release from Pax Christi. –doclalor ]

Pax Christi USA Coordinator Rebuffs Governor Bush’s Criticism on Election Monitors

[ link ]

“Protecting the sanctity of every vote, the dignity of every voter is the motivation behind bringing international election monitors to Florida,” says Robinson

Tallahassee, Fla. – Following criticism from Governor Jeb Bush, the national coordinator of Pax Christi USA said that “assuring the integrity of the election process” is the reason that his organization will be inviting international election monitors to Florida to oversee the 2004 presidential election.

“What I hope that Governor Bush understands is that the sanctity of every vote and the dignity of every voter is at the heart of our effort to make sure that the 2004 elections are conducted with the utmost integrity,” said Dave Robinson, national coordinator of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic peace and justice organization.

After a press conference outside the Florida Supreme Court in which Pax Christi USA announced its plans to bring international election monitors to Florida, Governor Bush told members of the media that Pax Christi USA’s plans are “an organized effort to try to create doubt about our election system.”

“This is all part of some politically motivated thing that tries to scare people to somehow think their vote is not going to count,” said Governor Bush. “That’s hogwash, hogwash.”

“It was our great hope that Governor Bush would welcome the monitoring of the elections,” said Carol Ann Breyer, state coordinator for Pax Christi Florida. “This is an excellent opportunity to show that the mistakes of the past have been corrected and that this great state can conduct a fair and transparent election, an ‘election in the sunshine’, so to speak.”

On Monday morning, Robinson and Breyer had announced Pax Christi USA’s intention to bring international election monitors to oversee the process in four of the counties which were at the heart of the 2000 presidential election controversy: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval. Pax Christi USA, which has sent delegations to observe elections in countries like El Salvador and Haiti in the past, also issued an invitation to other religious and civic organizations to join them in monitoring throughout the United States.

“Assuring each citizen’s right to vote is not hogwash,” Robinson said. “Having non-partisan election monitors from the international community is an essential component to assuring the integrity of the election process in Florida.”

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