NY Times story on ballot techology

None of my co-bloggers have written yet about Friday’s story in the New York Times on ballot problems and the 2008 election. It’s a nice piece by two of the three NY Times reporters who seem to be on the “election” beat (the third is John Broder).

The gist of the story is that legislation expected in the next session of Congress will outlaw machines without a paper record–thus pushing the e-voting frontier farther away, perhaps vanishingly so. After the past two election cycles, it’s not clear that citizens, election officials, or reformers have any stomach for electronic voting machines. Doug Chapin of electionline.org is quoted: “I think we’ll see the kinds of sweeping changes that people expected to see right after the 2000 election.”

But who is going to shoulder the cost of these changes? Many states have already spent tens of millions of dollars on electronic voting machines, only to be forced to replace these. (One piece of legislation proposes $150 million in federal aid–an amount that election officials say is far too small.) (The technical guidelines document that is referenced by the Times ought to be available at the EAC, but all I can find is the sunshine notice for the meeting where the guidelines were released.)

And forcing these changes now would put tremendous pressure on these same jurisdictions–the same kind of time pressure that creates a ripe environment for another round of electoral snafus.

Everyone here knows I monitor absentee and by-mail voting solutions particularly closely, and this story sounds awfully familiar to me. Many election officials are going to decide that buying a whole new round of machines is a waste of money. Instead, they’ll opt for a time-tested solution: widespread, no-excuse absentee balloting.