Voting Machine Problems Widespread
USA Today passes on early reports of difficulties in implementing new electronic voting machines:
• Election officials in Delaware County, Ind., planned to seek a court order to extend voting after an apparent computer error prevented voters from casting ballots in 75 precincts. Delaware County Clerk Karen Wenger said the cards that activate the machines were programmed incorrectly. “We are working with precincts one-by-one over the telephone to get the problem fixed,” Wenger said.
• Illinois officials were swamped with calls from voters complaining that poll workers did not know how to operate new electronic equipment
• In Ohio, some machines wouldn’t function.”We got five machines — one of them’s got to work,” said Willette Scullank, a troubleshooter from the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, elections board.
• In Florida, voting was briefly delayed at four districts because of either mixed up ballots or electronic activators being unintentionally wiped out, according to Mary Cooney, spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. Voters were forced to use paper ballots after an electronic machine broke in the Jacksonville suburb of Orange Park.
Nothing systematic here that should impact the election nor any obvious reason to suspect foul play. And there are going to be polling place difficulties no matter what system we use, as millions of people show up to do something they do no more than every couple of years. And the photo accompanying the piece probably explains more than the bullet points.
Still, it does point to some serious problems with the way we actually run elections. Between having elections in the middle of the work week, requiring people to vote near their homes rather than their place of business, and deciding that everyone needs to be able to walk to their polling place (presuming they’re home and not at work) we’ve created major obstacles.
We need a ridiculous number of people to volunteer for election duty–people who are only needed a handful of times a year at most. Given the vicissitudes of Tuesday voting, they will overwhelmingly be retirees, easily the least technologically savvy cohort. Considering how hard it is to get people to volunteer, one can hardly expect that they show up for multiple training sessions ahead of time, either.
To further complicate things, we seem to change the method of balloting every election cycle, making it a “new” experience every time. That’s even more problematic considering that older voters are far more likely to vote than their younger cohorts.
I voted in Virginia this morning, using their electronic balloting system for the first time. It was ridiculously easy to use for someone, like myself, who always banked at ATMs and had a personal computer for years. Then again, so is a paper ballot and a magic marker.
UPDATE: AP has another story. Buried several paragraphs deep:
”This is largely what I expected,” said Doug Chapin, director of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan group that tracks voting changes. ”With as much change as we had, expecting things to go absolutely smoothly at the beginning of the day is too optimistic.”
UPDATE: Hotline is tracking various reports of irregularities. Their high level analysis: “We’ve checked in with the national parties, and aside from minor, sporadic tangles and anecdotal evidence of high turnout, there are no major national voting problems.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Governor of South Carolina has been turned away for not having proper ID, a voting machine wouldn’t accept Rep. Jean Schmidt’s vote, Missouri’s Secretary of State was told she needed a photo ID when she didn’t, and there were problems, some quite serious, all over.
[UPDATE: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) turned away too… END UPDATE]
This is just not acceptable. We need to have a voting system we can feel confident of, with rules that are transparent, laws that are enforced, and machines that just plain work.
No dispute from me on that. None whatsoever. But unless we start voting on the weekend or figure out how to create a reasonably fraud-proof system that isn’t so labor intensive, I don’t see any easy solutions.
Glenn Reynolds has some thoughts on this at TCS, too.