While Election Day problems with electronic voting included touch-screen errors and malfunctioning machines, voting rights watchers said the run went much more smoothly than anticipated.
Despite dire predictions of chaos and worse, the influx of electronic voting in precincts across the United States on Election Day was more notable for its lack of problems than for any voting catastrophe. And where there were problems, people for the most part still voted.
The massive move to new types of voting machines was the result of widespread voting irregularities in Florida and elsewhere during the 2000 presidential election. While there were still problems, this year did not see anything like the issues of that year, which kept the world from knowing who would be president for more than a month.
"So far, weve had reports of about 600 e-voting problems," said Will Doherty, executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation, a San Francisco voting rights group. Dohertys organization had run a nationwide resource center to support voters with problems at the polling place, including those who had problems using new electronic voting machines.
Doherty said nearly all of the people who reported problems with the new voting machines Tuesday ultimately were able to vote, either by having the problem with the machine resolved or by using another form of votingusually a paper ballot.
Doherty said 600 problems represent a miniscule figure when compared with the tens of thousands of polling places, and millions of voters, in the United States. He noted, however, that he expected the number of reported problems to grow to perhaps three times that size in the days following the election. He also said it was his belief that many times, that number of people had problems with voting but didnt call Verified Voting.
According to Verified Votings studies, the problems with electronic voting machines revolved around three basic issues. The first problem, involving touch-screen registration, occurred when a voter would touch a choice for one selection, but a different one would actually show up as having been selected.
The second problem, Doherty said, were machines that didnt work or that stopped working during the voting process. The third problem was incorrect information appearing on the voting-machine screen, with either an incorrect summary or the wrong ballot appearing.
E-voting is both "proven and practical," a guest columnist writes. Click here for his views.
Doherty noted that most of the problems werent specifically related to the electronic nature of e-voting, but rather were problems that can happen with any type of voting machine. In New Orleans, for example, problems with missing or broken machinesor with not having access to electricitywere abundant.
"New Orleans wins the award for worst voting," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Cohn said the problems with voting machines were so bad in New Orleans that her organization petitioned the government there to allow polls to stay open longer so that people could vote.
Next Page: Some South Florida voters faced e-voting machines with ballot choices already selected.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.