Stateline Story

Report: Voting Glitches Could Disrupt Election

  • October 21, 2008
  • By Pauline Vu

In two weeks, the American voting system will be stressed as never before with record voter registration and expected large turnouts. But the greatest pressure will fall on 11 battleground states whose stars are aligned for an election debacle: tight races coupled with radical changes in their voting systems, according to electionline.org , a nonpartisan project of the Pew Center on the States that studies election reform.

The country has spent eight years since the 2000 election and six years since the Help America Vote Act "fixing our election plumbing," Doug Chapin, electionline.org director, said Tuesday (Oct. 21) in a press conference to release the group's 2008 election preview , which details problems that could disrupt the election.

"We've been replacing certain sections, patching and plugging others. But this year on Nov. 4, we're about to crank the pressure sky-high," Chapin said.

All eyes will be on Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin - not just because of their swing state status, but because of the potential for major problems, he said.

Florida, the state where election problems in 2000 led to an overhaul of the nation's voting system, will be tested once again. Several counties in South Florida are using optical scan machines, their third voting system in as many presidential elections after using punch card machines in 2000 and electronic machines in 2004.

Georgia and Indiana will be using their new voter identification laws that require voters to show photo ID for the first time in a presidential election. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law in April, and critics will be watching to see if it discourages people from voting.

Several states, including Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, are grappling with whether eligible voters have been dropped from the rolls or whether ineligible voters have been added.

The report also named the District of Columbia as a possible trouble spot on Election Day because of recent problems in its election administration, such as having a machine glitch that counted far more votes than there were voters, and running out of paper ballots during the primary.

Besides new machines, voter ID requirements, voter registration confusion and record turnout that could overwhelm poll workers and election systems, electionline.org said other factors that could disrupt the process include early voting, voter fraud and provisional ballots, which are used by people whose eligibility is in question and which may not be counted.

The report offers a 50-state snapshot that includes each state's number of registered voters, the percentage of people who voted in the 2004 election and the 2008 primary, the type of voting system in each state, what identification is required to vote, and more.

Stateline.org is also a project of the Pew Center on the States.