This was supposed to be the year — and the election — when the voting process nationwide was more secure, more technologically advanced and more trusted by the citizens and candidates participating.
Yet as the mid-term elections approach, machine failures, database delays and foul-ups, inconsistent procedures, new rules and new equipment have some predicting chaos at the polls at worst and widespread polling place snafus at best.
The changes to the American electoral system have been widespread. New machines for voters with disabilities have been implemented in polling places nationwide, while statewide voter registration databases are up and running in most states.
But critical differences still exist across state borders and new controversies emerged in 2006. Strict new voter ID rules have been the cause of continual legal challenges in some states, while lawsuits in other states have challenged the use of electronic voting systems. Limits on voter registration drives enacted in two key battleground states have been struck down by federal judges. While the use of paper backups to electronic voting has become more widespread, the rules for their use in recounting or auditing totals after an election vary.
The Nov. 7 election promises to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 election — a divided body politic, an election system in flux and the possibility—if not certainty—of problems at polls nationwide.
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Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.