New data on 2006 voting system usage in U.S.

Today Election Data Services (EDS) released a new report on their projections for the usage of voting technologies in the upcoming 2006 election cycle. There are some interesting findings in the report, and some alarming facts.

First, on the interesting side, the EDS data indicate rough parity between the two most popular forms of existing voting technologies, electronic or DRE machines and optical scanning ballots, at least when computed relative to the estimated number of registered voters who will be using either technology: 41% of registered voters are projected to use optical scan ballots, and 39% to use electronic voting systems. But, when the usage statistics are computed by county, 48% of counties will use optical scan ballots and 34% will use electronic voting systems.

Second, also on the interesting side, are the continued declines in usage of other voting technologies, especially punchcard ballots. They are projected to be used by only about 3% of registered voters, and in perhaps 4% of counties.

Third, and on an alarming note, is the projection that perhaps 31 million voters will be using new voting technologies when they go to vote in this year’s federal election cycle. What is alarming about this is that election officials will be essentially experimenting with new voting systems in what is shaping up to be another contested and partisan election cycle, at a time when in many states interest in politics and voter participation might be high. How will election officials insure adequate resources to train pollworkers about how to use the new voting systems. How will they train voters? Will the vendors have sufficient resources themselves to help counties using new voting systems for the first time in the 2006 election cycle? Will we see states and counties using new voting systems have serious problems, a phenomenon we have seen in previous years?