NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 5, 2006

Electronic voting machines, adopted widely after the disputed Florida ballot count in the 2000 presidential election, are under legal attack, say observers.

Lawsuits have been filed in at least six states, the most recent last week in Colorado, to block the purchase or use of computerized machines.

Voter Action, a nonpartisan advocacy group, led the challenge filed Thursday against the state of Colorado and nine counties, as well as similar lawsuits in California and Arizona this spring and New Mexico last year. Court actions by others targeted the devices in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

  • Most of the suits argue that the machines are vulnerable to software tampering, don't keep an easily recountable printed record and may miscount, switch or not record votes and even add phantom votes.
  • About one-third of the United State's 3,114 counties use some electronic systems, according to Election Data Services, a consulting group. It says half the counties use optical scanners that read dots or marks that voters pencil in on ballots.
  • The rest vote by other means, mostly hand-counted paper ballots in smaller communities but also lever-type machines in New York and Connecticut.

No case yet has claimed intentional manipulation of electronic vote data. System defenders say most problems occur because of hasty set-up before elections or poor training of poll workers.

Electronic voting, in use for more than a decade, didn't catch fire until Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. It overhauled election standards and required states to replace old voting methods such as punch cards, which fouled up the 2000 election in Florida. Congress also gave states more than $300 million to replace outdated systems.

Source: Patrick O'Driscoll, "Several lawsuits target e-voting; Devices disputed in at least 6 states," USA Today, June 5, 2006.


Browse more articles on Government Issues