Electronic Voting Under Scrutiny

Touch-screen electronic voting machine
Seventeen million more people voted in 2004 than voted in 2000, a 14 percent increase. With critical midterm elections just six weeks away, concerns are growing about the reliability of electronic voting machines. Some members of Congress are so worried that they are offering to buy states more paper ballots as a backup. That plan will be the subject of a congressional hearing.

How Many States Use Electronic Voting?

This November, for the first time, 90 percent of all votes in this country will be cast or counted electronically.

Dozens of states have adopted electronic voting technology to comply with federal legislation in 2002 intended to put an end to punch-card machines in the wake of the Bush-Gore "hanging chad" debacle.

About one-third of all precincts nationwide are using the electronic voting technology for the first time.

What Are Some Potential Problems Of Electronic Voting?

Dozens of states are using optical-scan and touch-screen machines to comply with federal laws. But problems were reported with the new technology and with the poll workers using them this year in primaries in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio and elsewhere.

These problems include issues of reliability, security and election-worker training. Some of these issues have played out in several states already, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

In the Maryland primary, officials forgot to include electronic voter cards needed to activate machines in Montgomery County. Voting was delayed, and many voters gave up. Backup provisional paper ballots were in short supply, and in some cases, voters wrote down choices on scrap paper.

In a local Iowa election, a college student was leading against an experienced politician. The problem was a ballot-counting malfunction with the new technology.

What Electronic Systems Are Used?

The AccuVote-TS is commonly used across the country, along with a newer model, the AccuVote-TSx. AccuVote is made by Diebold Election Systems.

To learn more about electronic voting:

• Read a report from the Brennan Center for Justice's Task Force on Voting System Security here.

• Click here to read the GAO report: Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed.

• Read a report from the Election Science Institute here.

• You can read the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project's report here.