Monday, December 13, 2004

Groups detail voting problems in 2004 election

By Frank Davies, Miami Herald, December 7, 2004

Last week several organizations sponsored a forum on Capitol Hill to discuss voting problems in the November 2004 election. The forum was attended by more than 500 people, and was sponsored by The Century Foundation, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and Common Cause, which also issued a "Report to the Nation" summarizing voting problems. More coverage of the forum is also available from the Common Cause


Excerpts from the Miami Herald story:

During a day-long forum on Capitol Hill, state officials, computer experts and voting rights advocates detailed a series of flaws that persisted this year, despite reforms and upgrades since the 2000 election:

* Long lines in Ohio, New Mexico and during Florida's early voting made it difficult for some voters to cast their ballots. Because of a lack of machines and staffing problems, some Ohio voters waited seven hours in the rain to vote.

* Registration problems, including counties struggling to update rolls of new voters, prevented thousands of people from voting easily. On Election Day, many voters could not get through by phone to local election offices and had difficulty casting provisional ballots.

* While much of the new technology performed well, serious flaws occurred. A computer malfunction wiped out 4,400 votes in Carteret County, N.C., and 3,893 extra votes were recorded for President Bush in Franklin County, Ohio.

* Election offices were often late to get out absentee ballots. Thousands sent out by Broward County, Fla., were lost in the mail.

"The election did not go smoothly, despite the fact that a president was chosen without court intervention, and without the chaos that many observers feared," the Common Cause report concluded.


While no electronic voting fraud has been discovered yet, a "malicious code" to do that would be easy to write and hard to detect, warned David Jefferson, who heads California's oversight committee on the security and reliability of voting systems.

"It is a potential weapon of mass electoral destruction," Jefferson said.

Beyond technology, there was some good news in the area of voter education, reported Ted Selker, an MIT professor and computer expert. He noted that Los Angeles County "reduced its error rate significantly" in votes cast this year through a TV public-service campaign.

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