WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – On the eve of the first statewide test of new voting machines, the county in the center of the 2000 election debacle scrambled to replace 100 poll workers who quit over the weekend.
Palm Beach County, birthplace of the infamous butterfly ballot, hurriedly trained 50 county employees and called backup workers Monday to replace those who quit because they had been assigned to new precincts.
"What I'm most nervous about is that (poll workers) just won't show up,'' county elections chief Theresa LePore said.
Elections officials statewide are bracing for voter confusion, technical difficulties and other challenges as they adjust to the $32 million reform of a system that left the presidential election in limbo for 36 days.
"When you have a new system you don't feel as comfortable as you do with something you're accustomed to,'' said Linda Howell, Madison County's elections supervisor.
Punch-card ballots and other low-tech voting methods are gone, replaced with computer touchscreens and optical-scan machines.
Officials hope to avoid the problems of 2000, when some voters claimed they weren't allowed to cast ballots because they were mistaken for convicted felons, were omitted from voter rolls, didn't provide identification even though it wasn't necessary or didn't understand English.
Other voters, notably in Palm Beach County, said confusing ballot designs led them to vote for the wrong candidate.
Elections officials have offered hundreds of demonstrations of the new voting systems. Palm Beach held a mock election in July.
Civil rights groups and Justice Department officials will have monitors at some precincts during Tuesday's primary.