Election Day Will Likely Test Voting System, Voter Patience

Contact: Janet Lane, 202.552.2037


Washington, DC - 10/21/2008 - 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:

  • Recently adopted rules requiring voters to show photo ID before casting ballots will be enforced for the first time in a presidential election in Indiana and Georgia. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s law requiring polling place voters to present government-issued photo ID and voter ID proponents say the rules will safeguard the election from fraudulent voting.  But concerns remain that some citizens could be disenfranchised
  • Record numbers of new registrants in dozens of states could lead to clerical errors, lost applications, mishandled forms or other problems.
  • As final preparations continue – and will do so until polls open on November 4 – the report notes that voting has been underway in some states for weeks. As many as a third of all voters will cast ballots early, either in person or via mail-in ballots.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.

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