Study: Tech is no voting cure-all
- By William Matthews
- Aug 20, 2001
Improved procedures are more important to election reform than new, high-tech voting machines, according to a task force of election officials.
"Only a small percentage of the problems [in the November 2000 election] were directly related to any failure by vote-tally devices themselves," the National Task Force on Election Reform said in a report released to Congress Aug. 9. "The problems were created by people, not machines."
That finding by 37 state and local election officials serves as counterpoint to the post-election scramble by vendors, researchers and politicians to promote new voting technology. Voting machines that feature optical scanners, touch screens and vote transmission via the Internet have been touted as solutions.
Tallying the results of last fall's presidential election dragged on for 36 days while ballots in Florida were recounted and the recounts were challenged in court. Punch-card voting machines were blamed for failing to accurately count tens of thousands of votes, while certain ballot designs were faulted for confusing thousands of voters.
It would cost $3.5 billion or more to replace all of the nation's old-technology voting machines, said Doug Lewis, director of The Election Center, which sponsored the task force. But the machines are not the most serious problem, he said.
Most of the trouble in Florida stemmed from inconsistent standards and vague procedures, he said. The state lacked clear standards on what constituted a vote — hence the disputes over dimpled and hanging chads. And there were no clear rules on conducting recounts. "Solve those two problems," and the election in Florida might have been uneventful, Lewis said.