Study: Tech is no voting cure-all

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.

Featured

  • IT Modernization
    shutterstock image By enzozo; photo ID: 319763930

    OMB provides key guidance for TMF proposals amid surge in submissions

    Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat details what makes for a winning Technology Modernization Fund proposal as agencies continue to submit major IT projects for potential funding.

  • gears and money (zaozaa19/Shutterstock.com)

    Worries from a Democrat about the Biden administration and federal procurement

    Steve Kelman is concerned that the push for more spending with small disadvantaged businesses will detract from the goal of getting the best deal for agencies and taxpayers.

Stay Connected