Millions of Americans will head to the polls two weeks from today to cast ballots in one of the highest interest elections in recent memory. However, they could face long lines, new technology and registration challenges in a number of states.
"Election Preview 2008: What if We Held an Election and Everyone Came?," released today by the Pew Center on the States' electionline.org, provides a comprehensive look at the rules, technology, registration figures and issues to watch in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It finds that while significant improvements have been undertaken since the 2000 vote – and the resulting passage of federal legislation in 2002 – election administration remains a challenge.
"Sky-high voter interest, coupled with changes in voting machines, record numbers of new registrants in many places and new procedures including voter identification rules in some states will mean voters and election administrators could have a long day on November 4," said Doug Chapin, director of electionline.org. "Many polling places will hit capacity and poll workers will be tested. Results from some counties could take longer than usual."
The report notes that voting machines purchased as recently as six years ago have been replaced in key states, including Florida and California, after election officials and lawmakers became concerned about security and reliability issues. In some south Florida counties, the optical scanners in place for the first time this year mark the third voting system in as many presidential contests.
The number of states offering voter-verified paper audit trails with DREs (direct recording electronic voting machines) has increased. Only six states – Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey and South Carolina – use voting systems without individual paper ballot audit trails.
According to electionline, other key changes that may present challenges on Election Day include:
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.