This week the federal Election Assistance Commission released a comprehensive survey on the 2004 election. To conduct the survey, the EAC requested voting and elections information from election officials throughout the country. According to the EAC, the 2004 Election Day Survey is "the largest and most comprehensive survey on election administration ever conducted by a U.S. governmental organization".
There are many interesting findings from the survey, which covers topics ranging from absentee and provisional voting to undervote and overvote rates. One important finding appears in Chapter 3. In this chapter, titled "Ballots Counted", under the header "Types of Voting Equipment", the EAC reports the following:
"Jurisdictions that used hand-counted paper ballots reported the highest turnout rates of any type of voting system for population-based turnout rates. However, when calculating turn-out as a percent of registered voters, those jurisdictions using optical scan voting equipment had the highest turnout rate of all voting systems. Jurisdictions that used lever machines had the lowest turnout rate for registration and voting age population based methods of calculating turnout rates. Surprisingly, jurisdictions that used electronic voting machines reported the lowest turnout rates when measured by citizen voting age population and the second lowest on overall voting age population."
This is an important finding which undercuts the claims made for many years by electronic voting proponents that using touchscreens will increase voter turnout, and will make it more difficult for e-voting proponents and manufacturers to promote their equipment for this purpose. According to the EAC, jurisdictions using hand-counted or optically-scanned paper ballots have higher voter participation rates than those using lever or electronic voting machines.