NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 7, 2006

With a third of Americans voting on new equipment and voters navigating new registration databases and rules governing acceptable IDs, election watchdogs worry about polling problems Tuesday, says Anick Jesdanun of the Associated Press.

According to recent statistics:

  • Some 32 percent of registered voters will see new equipment since the 2004 elections, a jump from 19 percent using new machines two years ago.
  • Nearly half of all voters will be using optical-scan systems that ask voters to fill in the blanks, with ballots then fed by poll workers into a computerized system.
  • Another 38 percent will cast votes on ATM-like touchscreen machines, the ones criticized by many computer scientists as prone to hacking and other problems.

Election experts say both types are bound to cause trouble:

  • Touchscreens may display incorrect ballots or fail to boot properly.
  • Voters might circle a name -- instead of filling in a box -- and not have their decision scanned correctly.
  • Poll workers may not be adequately trained to handle the unexpected, resulting in delays, particularly if precincts don't have paper ballots for voters to cast as backups.

In addition, many states have established voter registration databases for the first time, and some are encountering problems matching drivers' license and Social Security data with the voter rolls.  Others are asking for government issued photo IDs, despite not being required by federal law.  The heightened confusion is causing election watchdogs to worry that poll workers might mistakenly turn voters away.

Source: Anick Jesdanun, "Election watchdogs warn of poll problems," Mercury News, November 7, 2006.

For text:


Browse more articles on Government Issues