The E-Voting Write-In Test

The race to replace Tom Delay will be the first test for conducting a write-in election on electronic voting machines. Almost the entire district is covered by jurisdictions that use electronic voting machines for in-precinct voting. The Galveston Daily News, the Washington Times, and the Houston Chronicle all have articles about the race and about the education that will have to occur so that voters can learn how to potentially cast a write-in vote on these machines. The Chronicle notes that:

Electronic ballots are used in most of the district, which includes parts of Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria and Galveston counties. Voting booths will display the names of write-in candidates who register before Aug. 28 and are certified by the Texas secretary of state. Voters will have to navigate to the write-in option on the electronic ballot, call up a keyboard display and spin a dial to spell out a candidates’ name a letter at a time. David Beirne, spokesman for Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, said misspelling a candidates’ name won’t disqualify the vote if a voter’s intention is clear. The 2004 Democratic candidate in the 22nd District, Richard Morrison, received about 67,000 votes, Bettencourt said, and Lampson probably will get that many Nov. 7.

This means that 67,000 Republicans have to be willing to do write-in voting, although many will do so in absentee voting, which is done on an optical scan system. I was the discussant of a paper on electronic voting at a confrence this spring in Chicago that examined the ease of doing write-in voting using a DRE and generally it is not easy. It can take up to 5 minutes to figure it out, which could also affect machine wait times at precincts with heavy Republican turnout.