is 2008 the year?

Electronic voting machines: will things be better in 2008?

Raise your hand if you remember the presidential election of 2000. Do the words “buttefly ballot” still make you cringe? Well, you are probably not the only one. If fact, because of the confusing mess produced by butterfly ballots, a number of key politicians have continued to stoke the fires of voting-machine reform. This reform has often come in the form of electronic voting machines, but that doesn’t mean that all problems have been solved. On September 25, 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report from a 2007 countrywide survey on the use of these electronic voting machines. (To see the full report, click here.)

The report produced some troubling findings; namely, several swing states are failing to report the failure of their voting machines. The report also focuses on the failure of the Colorado Election Assistance Commission to implement a statewide voter database. As a result of Colorado’s computer problems, and the ensuing long lines, some 20,000 Colorado voters left polling places without voting in the 2006 general elections. While the GAO report listed a number of problems, it concluded that perceptions of electronic voting are “favorable,” and a large number of states will continue to utilize the machines in the 2008 elections.

Electronic voting machines were touted as one of the most plausible solutions to the various voting problems that plagued the 2000 presidential race. Of course, solving the problem of poorly designed or illegible ballots leads to new problems, such as the lack of a paper trail on some machines. Furthermore, consider the problem with some states’ voter databases. According to a recent article, some voters are being kicked off their state’s voter database if they input their name with slight variations (“Alex” instead of “Alexander,” for example, or the use of a middle initial). Bundle that with reports of computer crashes (imagine staring at a BSOD right after you press the “vote” button!), and the benefits of electronic voting seem a little less… beneficial.

I’m all for electronic voting, but then again, I’ve used a computer since I was six years old. I completely understand older generations having some reservations about using electronic voting machines. Voting, after all, is why this whole democratic form of government works, and should be monitored very seriously. Indeed, if states are going employ their own voting methods for electronic voting machines, it’s good to know the federal government at least has its eye on the particular problems associated with the electronic voting process. We will see, however, if this report prompts anything more than merely a watchful eye and continued pop culture criticisms of electronic-voting issues:


–Rylan Smith

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