With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, officials have opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace.
Nearly 70 percent of voters will be casting ballots by hand on Tuesday, according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting.
It’s an outcome few would have predicted after the 2000 election, when the battle over “hanging chads” in the Florida recount spurred a massive, $3 billion federal investment in electronic voting machines.
States at the time ditched punch cards and levers in favor of touch screens and ballot-scanners, with the perennial battleground state of Ohio spending $115 million alone on upgrades.
Smith said the mid-2000s might go down as the “heyday” of electronic voting.
Since then, states have failed to maintain the machines, partly due to budget shortfalls.
“There is simply no money to replace them,” said Michael Shamos, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who has examined computerized voting systems in six states.
The lack of spending on the machines is a major problem because the electronic equipment wears out quickly. Smith recalled sitting in a meeting with Missouri election officials in 2012, where they complained 25 percent of their equipment had malfunctioned in preelection testing.
From our archives
Touch screen voting machines can be hacked for 26 bucks
Romney's ties to major voting machine maker
Ireland dumps e-voting machines that America still uses
The article everyone should have read in 1988 about the dangers of computerized voting
A computer programmer explains how easy it is to rig an election
Researchers break into e-voting system in less than 48 hours, change almost all ballots
Study finds $11 in parts and an 8th grade science education can hack voting machines used by one quarter of American electorate
WHY USING A SLOT MACHINE IS SAFER THAN ELECTRONIC VOTING
E-VOTE MACHINES A MASSIVE FAILURE 2008 ELECTION THREATENED
ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES SCREW UP BADLY
CIA EXPERT SAYS ELECTRONIC VOTING EASILY HACKED
Most needed election reforms
No one has done a better job of covering election count problems than Brad Friedman of Brad Blog. Here's his list of the most needed reforms:
- Hand-Marked Paper Ballots For All: All ballot selections, in all federal elections, must be hand-marked by the voter, on paper ballots, except for ballots marked by a non-tabulating assistive device, as may be required to meet HAVA's accessibility voting mandate, one per polling place, for use by those who wish such assistance in order to vote privately and independently.
- Fully Disclosed Hardware & Software: All electronic voting and tabulating systems (eg. ballot tabulators, ballot marking devices for optional use voters who wish assistance), in jurisdictions that may use such systems, must employ fully open source, publicly disclosed hardware and software.
- Precinct-Based Counting: Ballots cast at the precinct are to be counted in a fully public, transparent, and verifiable manner at the local precinct level, with full citizen observation allowed by law, and results posted publicly at the precinct before either ballots or results are forwarded to any other location(s).
- Voting Databases Released: All vote tabulation databases are to be made available to the public.
- Full Transparency: All ballot counting/tabulation/auditing processes are to be fully open and transparent to any and all members of the public.
- No Remote/Networked Communications: No voting system may have remote communication capabilities, infrared or bluetooth capabilities, or be attached to the Internet or to a local area network at any time.
- No Internet Voting: No ballots may be cast over the Internet.
- Disclosure of Federal Testing Processes/Results: All federal voting system testing/certification processes must be fully documented and results made immediately available for public inspection.
- Outlaw Deceptive Practices: Deceptive practices (such as disinformation concerning Election Day, poll locations, and registration information and processes, etc.), voter caging (the removal of voters from the rolls without notification or process for appeal), and voter intimidation (eg. use of threats, uniformed officers at the polls, etc.) shall be outlawed. These laws shall be enforced and penalized as felony crimes.
- Same Day Registration: Same day voter registration will be mandated for all voters in federal elections.
- Ban Disenfranchising Photo ID Restrictions: Restrictive Photo ID measures at the polling place must be outlawed. Federalize the types of voter ID that may be required at the polls for federal elections.
- Notification of Rejected Absentee Ballots: All voters are to be notified and allowed timely opportunity to appeal the rejection of their absentee ballots for any reason.
- Make Election Day a Holiday: Election Day must be made a federal holiday.
- Move Election Day to Wednesday: Election Day is to be moved to Wednesday. (Would likely require a Constitutional amendment - see this for a quick explanation of why moving it to Wednesday is a good idea.)
- "Right to Vote" Amendment: Amend the U.S. Constitution to declare a federal "Right to Vote" in all federal elections.
- Disenfranchisement a Felony Crime: The purposeful disenfranchisement of any legal voter, for any reason, by any person, in any election, at any time, is to be a felony crime. Each individual case of such disenfranchisement is to be prosecutable to the full extent of the law.