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U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler called on Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist Tuesday to open an investigation of Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood and her lieutenants to determine when they knew about problems with the state’s touch-screen voting machines. “This issue must be investigated immediately … in order to ensure the integrity of the state’s election system,” said Wexler, referring to problems with the audit system, which can be used for recounts and verifications of the number of votes cast. In a letter to Crist, the congressman called the timing of state election chief Ed Kast’s resignation “highly suspicious.” Kast abruptly quit Monday, two weeks after he was deposed as part of a lawsuit brought by Wexler challenging the legality of the state’s touch-screen voting machines. Wexler contends the system violates state law because the machines are not capable of a recount. Wexler, D-Boca Raton, wants to know when Hood’s office knew about problems with the auditing systems of the iVotronic electronic voting machines. Hood, who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, oversees the state Division of Elections. In the letter, Wexler contends that recent statements by both Hood and Kast have called into question their assertions that they didn’t know about the problem until reading about it in press reports. The Daily Business Review first reported on May 13 that the audit systems of the iVotronic voting machines manufactured by Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software are flawed and failed to account for dozens of ballots cast in two municipal elections last year in Homestead and North Miami Beach. “Secretary Hood and her top officials have repeatedly given conflicting accounts about how long they have known about the problem,” Wexler wrote in the letter. “I believe only an investigation by your office will get to the bottom of this growing crisis.” Calls to Hood and Crist were not returned before deadline. The iVotronic machines are used in Miami-Dade, Broward and several other counties in Florida. ES&S has steadfastly maintained that all votes were counted in each election and proposed a temporary solution for the audit system glitch. ES&S also said it is developing software that would eliminate the flaw, but that software has yet to be certified by the state. Questions have been raised about when state officials knew about the problem and why it was not made public sooner. Internal reports on the Miami-Dade elections detailing the audit system flaw were done in June and October last year, yet Hood recently said that she did not learn about the audit system glitch until reading about in the Review last month. But on March 12, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition wrote Hood’s office detailing the audit problems. On March 24, Hood’s assistant general counsel responded to the voter group’s letter and acknowledged the problem. According to Wexler, on May 17 Kast was deposed under oath in Wexler’s lawsuit against Secretary Hood. In that deposition Kast testified that, like Hood, he knew nothing about the audit system flaw until he read about it in press reports. But the March letter from the reform coalition to Hood’s office detailing the audit system flaw was addressed to Kast, casting doubt on his assertion he knew nothing about the problem, Wexler indicated. “I urge you to conduct a special investigation into whether Secretary Hood, Ed Kast and other election officials in Florida actually knew about the problems with these ES&S machines,” Wexler told Crist, “and whether Mr. Kast and others who testified under oath were actually telling the truth.”

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