E-Voting Returns Mixed Results

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-11-08

Makers of electronic voting machines declared victory for their technology in this years presidential election, but computer scientists, who collected thousands of reports of voting glitches, said the results may reveal a different outcome.

And while the problems were not great enough to affect the outcome of the presidential race, they could affect some state and local elections. More than 40 million voters cast ballots on about 175,000 electronic voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., Elections Systems & Software Inc. and others, who claimed minimal disruptions.

To read more about the performance of e-voting systems in this election, click here.

"Electronic voting machines took an important test on Nov. 2 and passed with flying colors," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, which represents e-voting manufacturers in Washington.

The National Committee for Voting Integrity, comprising computer scientists and other elections experts, was not as satisfied, however. The Election Incident Reporting System, run by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Verified Voting Foundation, recorded more than 30,000 complaints, according to Will Doherty, executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation in San Francisco.

Some voting machines in Louisiana and Pennsylvania failed to operate when powered up, causing long lines and voter frustration. In New Orleans, some polling places ran out of backup ballots when machines failed.

"I think New Orleans is going to be a really big question," Doherty said. "I believe there will be litigation in New Orleans on this problem."

In Florida, technical glitches and insufficient backup power caused such long waits in some places that e-vote cards had expired by the time many voters had reached the machines.

Elsewhere in Florida and in Ohio, some machines went dark during the balloting.

Had the presidential election been closer and recounts necessary in precincts using e-voting machines, it "would have been a pretty ugly situation," said David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University, in Stanford, Calif., NCVI member and founder of the Verified Voting Foundation.

"In this election, we dodged a bullet," Dill said.

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