New GAO report on November 2004 presidential election

There’s a new report out from the GAO on the 2004 presidential election, “Elections: The Nation’s Evolving Election System as Reflected in the November 2004 General Election.” I’ve not had a chance to fully digest the 534 page report, but here is their summary of their findings:

In passing HAVA, Congress provided a means for states and local jurisdictions to improve upon several aspects of the election system, but it is too soon to determine the full effect of those changes. For example, 41 states obtained waivers permitted under HAVA until January 1, 2006, to implement a requirement for statewide voter registration lists. States also had discretion in how they implemented HAVA requirements, such as the identification requirements for first-time mail registrants. Some local election jurisdictions described different identification procedures for first-time mail registrants who registered through voter registration drives. Although states differed regarding where voters who cast provisional ballots for federal office must cast those ballots in order for their votes to be counted, provisional voting has helped to facilitate voter participation. HAVA also created the Election Assistance Commission, which has issued best practice guides and voluntary voting system standards and distributed federal funds to states for improving election administration, including purchasing new voting equipment. The results of our survey of local election jurisdictions indicate that larger jurisdictions may be replacing older equipment with technology-based voting methods to a greater extent than small jurisdictions, which continue to use paper ballots extensively and are the majority of jurisdictions. As the elections technology environment evolves, voting system performance management, security, and testing will continue to be important to ensuring the integrity of the overall elections process.

GAO found that states made changes—either as a result of HAVA or on their own—to address some of the challenges identified in the November 2000 election. GAO also found that some challenges continued—such as problems receiving voter registration applications from motor vehicle agencies, addressing voter error issues with absentee voting, recruiting and training a sufficient number of poll workers, and continuing to ensure accurate vote counting. At the same time, new challenges arose in the November 2004 election, such as fraudulent, incomplete, or inaccurate applications received through voter registration drives; larger than expected early voter turnout, resulting in long lines; and counting large numbers of absentee ballots and determining the eligibility of provisional voters in time to meet final vote certification deadlines.

As we have time to digest this massive report, we’ll report back as to any interesting findings. A quick skim reveals that there is a lot of data in this report for folks interested in election administration.