Elections in the News

More on voting techonology

The New York Times reports that an ImageCast machine will be available at each polling location in Westchester County, New York. According to the story, “the county intends to replace all mechanical lever-style voting machines by next year.” The ImageCast machines “work on principles similar to general-use machines scheduled for use next year, including touch screens that allow voters to see their options and scanners that print paper ballots for verification. ” Further, These machines have the potential of helping voters with disabilities because they count with “an audio component for voters with compromised sight, and a sip-and-puff attachment and foot paddles for voters with limited or no upper-body movement.” However, the use of these machines also carries disadvantages: “The machines are the most technologically complex the county has dealt with – votes take an average of 15 minutes to complete, instructors said. That has required added training for the poll workers. Election officials said they had been running two-and-a-half-hour training classes.” Nonetheless, “several attendees later said they felt they would need additional training, given the complicated nature of the machine.”

Another frequent issue with voting machines is that even though they should be delivered on time to polling places, this is not always the case. In the September 2004 election in New Orleans regarding gay marriage, voting machines arrived late in “at least 59 precincts.” According to The Times-Picayune, on that ocassion “some voters had to return to polling places two and three times to cast ballots. Officials at the time blamed miscommunication for the delays, saying in part that truck drivers had been unable to get into locked schools and other buildings used as polling places.” However, “this time, officials say 928 voting machines will be in place by Monday. And for good measure, they said two dozen spare machines will be on standby at the city’s warehouse.”

Returning to the issue of the sometimes excessive number of voters per machine, the Los Angeles Times reports that in the Young Sr. Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia, the surge in registration can lead to 350 voters per machine. The story adds that due the long early voting lines observed nationwide, plus the low number of voting machines relative to the high expected turnout on election day, “watchdogs are worried that hundreds of thousands of would-be voters at places like Young Elementary will give up on casting ballots if lines are long Tuesday, dealing a blow to voting rights far more serious than the claims of voter intimidation and malfunctioning machinery that make headlines.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also warns that in Georgia “election officers may find they’ve placed too few voting machines in polling places that experience uncharacteristically high turnouts.”

Inés and Janell