Experts warn of Election Day voting meltdowns

Similar to years past, the so-called experts are warning of the usual problems at polling places around the country which may or may not lead to the courtroom, as we saw in 2000. This year, rampant reports of ACORN’s fraudulent voter registration activities coupled with the Democrats’ claim that Republicans are trying to suppress votes should make it loads of fun to sort out.

Report from Politico:

While the two campaigns Tuesday accused one another of trying to steal or suppress votes, experts in election administration are focusing on the old standbys: Faulty machines, questionable voter lists, last-minute litigation.

The likely trouble spots, the experts say, include two familiar election reprobates: Ohio and Florida.

But there are also some new entrants, as the broad new playing field of the 2008 presidential election means more states are competitive, more citizens are participating, and the potential for Election-Day meltdowns like the notorious administrative collapse in Florida in 2000 has increased.

Many pointed, in particular, to Colorado as the possible source of a late night November 4, while others suggested that record turnout in states like Virginia and Georgia could challenge local election officials.

“There’s still reason to be concerned in terms of what’s going to take place in November,” said Kimball Brace, whose firm, Election Data Services, advises local governments on election administration.

Brace cited everything from new machines in Cleveland and South Florida to the rise in absentee voting, many of which are counted by error-prone “optical scan” machines.

“The states that we’re keeping an eye on (are) still Florida, but also Ohio, and also Colorado. Those three states are the problem ones from an election administration standpoint,” he said.

The location of a Florida-2000-style Election-Day meltdown – with the attendant legal clashes, and lingering doubt – is impossible to predict. Such crises only come about in extremely tight elections, and require the confluence of that close vote with an administrative failure.

But despite eight years of federal and state efforts to create a more standardized, higher-tech national framework for election administration, most state votes will still be administered by county election boards whose competence and equipment vary wildly.

The campaigns, meanwhile, have already begun intense legal skirmishing in states like Ohio and Indiana over a new wave of early voting that began in September.

“In South Florida you’ve got areas that are going to be on their third separate voting technology in their third consecutive presidential election,” said Doug Chapin, the editor of the non-partisan Electionline.org. “Ohio once again is in ground zero for policy changes and litigation.”

Colorado, meanwhile, is still reeling from a true Election Day meltdown in 2006, a technical failure in Denver that may have swung at least one close race.

“It’s squarely in both campaigns’ sights,” Chapin said. “They were one of the last states to finish their voter registration list. They had a very bad experience with Election Day voter centers in 2006. Lots of changes, lots.”

Many states are taking pressure off their November 4 poll sites with a push for early voting, which has been embraced by both presidential campaigns.

“Mail-in voting helps to relieve a lot of the pressure,” said Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for the Colorado secretary of state.

But Chapin said early voting comes with its own concerns: The error rate for optical-scan ballots transported to a central location for counting is sharply higher than those tallied on site, he said.

Florida, the state that has been synonymous with Election Day chaos since the 2000 recount, remains especially troubled despite intense local efforts to remedy its problems. A 2006 congressional election was marred by a dispute concerning more than 18,000 “undervotes” on ballots that registered votes for some offices but not for the congressional race itself. The losing campaign claimed that unusually high number of undervotes was due to a software glitch on “touch-screen” voting machines.

Honestly though, I personally believe for the most part, our elections are fair and just. However, with that being said, it is scary to think about the one disingenuous polling worker who “loses” or “finds” some ballots to help their candidate. As we saw in 2000, the presidential race could come down to a few hundred votes, so these allegations and concerns must be taken seriously by both campaigns.

  • Peter M

    Perhaps what you say is true that, “for the most part, our elections are fair and just.” For the most part– not entirely. But that fraction of the system that is not fair is very significant. When election results are going neck-and-neck, it is of the utmost importance to have a transparent and reliable system for voting.

    If you disagree, read this rolling stone article: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen

    It will be interesting to see what happens this time around.

  • Babs

    Agreed, Peter M, in 1960 JFK won the presidential election by less than 100,000 votes. I have predicted that this election would look like the 1980 Reagan election in which 29% of all democrats voted for Reagan. At this point, it may be more like the 1960 election, in which case those 100,000 votes may be fraudulent.

  • Babs

    I posted this on another thread, but I’m going to post it here as well, since it’s relevant to the thread.

    A special needs member of our local community has already been the victim of early voter fraud – not registration fraud, voter fraud. This is outrageous, and I expect to see results from this “internal investigation” of the day care center.

    http://www.walb.com/Global/story.asp?S=9177991&nav=menu37_5_2_1

  • I think the whole way you register and cast your vote needs to be overhauled and make it the same for every state and for the Dems and Reps to agree on it. Seems to me there’s a lot of grey areas that can allow for fraud.

    Babs, do you believe special needs should be allowed to vote? and if so would they really understand who they’re voting for and why they’re voting for them?

  • M. M.

    nzpudding — I completely agree with you on the standardization of voting.

    On special needs voting… Let’s just say sure, because why should someone who chooses not to become knowledgeable of the issues have any more right to have a say in their country’s political future than a SN individual who has?

    I’ve worked with the special needs (both organic and those due to abuse, drug use, and accidents) and have to say, there’s not much separating them from many of the people we all interact with out there on a daily basis.

    I WISH most people I knew had pass a competency test to vote–or do most things in life for that matter.

    My issue would be with coaching. Some of the clients I’ve worked with are very impressionable, and quite frankly, I do not find them to be up to the task. I’ve seen them be taken advantage of because of that by family members, staff members, other SN individuals, and apparently like what Babs mentioned.

  • susan

    I wonder what you guys will be doing for a living in 19 days,When BO is elected President of the USA.
    Cheers!

  • M.M I’m more talking about mental special needs rather than physical. If they haven’t a clue what day it is let alone who’s running for President then that could lead to voter fraud when someone else fills in their voter card.

    But I totally agree, people should have to pass a competency test before being allowed to vote and the same thing before being allowed to breed.

  • Babs

    pudding, I agree with MM, and you as well. There are special needs people who are severely mentally disabled, and I don’t think anyone tries to use them as a “warm body” to vote. If they do, that’s wrong. Having said that, that group does not participate in these day care type settings here. They are either homebound, or institution bound.

    But if you looked at the video that accompanied that article, you’d see this individual – while certainly handicapped – had the ability to choose and argue with the person who marked the ballot differently than he wanted. The article was enough to make you angry, but if you watched the accompanying video it makes you want to really champion this person’s cause. Besides being grossly illegal, it was also very insulting and demeaning to him. He was essentially brushed aside to give this aid a chance to defraud the system for her own purposes. The fact that these people’s guardians were not notified – nor approved – this voting trip, lends itself to the idea that it was a calculated move on the part of the center. Believe me, this situation is not over.

    On a personal note, I have had dealings with this group and it’s “consumers” as they call them every year at a charity Fishing Rodeo. The “consumers” look forward to it every year because a local sports show puts them on TV – you can understand their excitement. I participate in this event each year, and was guest host for the show once (scheduling conflict), interviewing everyone of them. They are high functioning. They are wonderfully delightful people, and the idea that this fraud has been perpetrated on them simply because they are who they are is disgraceful.