Elections in the News

Voting Technology

In Franklin County, Ohio, shorter lines are expected for Tuesday because, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch, “there will be more machines overall than in 2004.” The expected number of voters per machine for Election Day is 106 –taking both early voting and an 80% turnout into account, compared to 170 in 2004. The situation in 2004 was even worse in Columbus County, with a median of 276 voters per machine. However, the newspaper points out that “less-extreme waits in the central city could come at the expense of some suburban voters. Their polling places will get a smaller share of electronic touch-screen machines based on a new distribution plan that considers ballot length.”

Waits are also expected to be shorter in Florida because of the large number of early votes cast –which according to the GMU early voting statistics, stands at 54% of the 2004 total vote, and according to the St. Petersburg Times surpassed 35% of the number of registered voters. Moreover, the St. Petersburg Times adds that “voters will be using optical scan ballots for the first time, and election officials expect it to take them longer to vote on the new system than it did on the old touch screen machines.” However, the expected increase in voter turnout could drive the number of voters per precinct per hour up to 67 in 2008, compared to 60 in 2004. Nonetheless, the newspaper reports that the precinct capacity increased in 2008 compared to 2004: “In Pinellas, an average of 72 voters an hour could go through each precinct, an increase of six over 2004. Hillsborough’s per-precinct traffic stands to increase to 77 voters an hour, up four voters over 2004. In Miami-Dade County, where there are fewer precincts per voter, the traffic could increase by 20 voters an hour.”

Ballot counting will probably be quicker in some Vermont communities due to the introduction of vote-tabulating machines . AP reports that “since the 2006 election when human error prompted a recount and reversal of Vermont’s election for auditor, 30 more Vermont communities now have vote-tabulating machines bringing the total to 103.” However, even though the Secretary of State office “noticed that towns with voting machines had more accurate results”, and though the H.A.V.A. offered free optical scanning machines to the remaining communities with at least 750 voters, those communities preferred to to continue counting ballots by hand. Charlotte Town Clerk Mary Mead said that the reason for turning down the offer is that “although the tabulator machine may make things easier, there is something to be said about real people coming together and the spirit of such tradition. You certainly can’t count on a machine to replicate that.”

In California, A.P. reports that some county registrars are concerned about ballot counting getting slow in those counties who “have been adjusting to a shift to paper ballots after Secretary of State Debra Bowen limited the use of touchscreen machines last year because of security concerns.” But how much longer can the ballot count take? According to A.P., “during the 2004 presidential election, Riverside County used electronic machines and tallied the votes cast at polling places in six hours. (…) This year, officials are planning for a 36-hour count and that’s after borrowing two more machines to scan paper ballots.” According to Michael Alvarez, cited by AP, “a rise in the number of first-time voters also might drag out the tally.”

Inés and Janell