Elections in the News

I love technology

Despite optimistic predictions about election day, concerns remain.  Electronic voting, including optical scanners, DRE’s and the absence of VVPAT’s, are all issues of concern, especially in states that do not offer early voting and are thus more likely to be overwhelmed by tomorrow’s turnout.  Computerworld has a database where you can search for reported voting technology problems by state, machine type, vendor, machine model, and more.  A Princeton computer scientist warns against the dangers of all types of voting technology.  However, he does not suggest that getting rid of them will make elections secure.  Rather, he says it is effective administration, including audits and strict chain of custody procedures, which make elections, however technical, run smoothly.

The New York Times ran an excellent piece today on the constantly changing methods of voting.  They look at how many counties have gone from high tech electronic voting back to paper ballots and optical scanning, while pointing out that both methods of voting are equally prone to errors.  While machines may flip votes, precincts may run out of paper ballots and voters may fill out them out wrong, making them unreadable by optical scanners.  (You can watch a slide show from the New Mexico Audit Project, with examples of spoiled ballots, here). Some problems can always be expected due to a system that is “still in flux” as a result of transitioning to new voting systems.

That is why, regardless of the method of voting, in the end it comes down good public administration. “No election is ever going to be 100 percent accurate, because you have human beings involved.”  However, as election administrators plan for contingent situations, such as ballot shortages or power outages, problems at the polls become much less likely and much more manageable, regardless of the technology of choice.

Inés and Janell