Election 2008: E-Voting Poses Problems, But No Meltdown

By David Bruggeman
November 19, 2008

While some federal races remain too close to call, or are headed to runoffs, the 2008 election is notable for the lack of a dispute over election machines that may affect the outcome of an election. USACM members and ACM staff were observing activity throughout the country and noted the problems and issues with electronic voting in several media articles and interviews. We outlined these issues in a press release, which you can read online. It emphasizes voter registration database concerns.

USACM Barbara Simons was interviewed by O’Reilly Media about the election. They have a podcast and transcript of the interview available online. Some excerpts from other press reports involving USACM members:

From the Associated Press and the Welland Tribune (Ontario, Canada):

Some New Jersey voters were forced to cast paper ballots because of troublesome touch-screen machines. Similar problems popped up elsewhere, but were more sporadic than widespread.

“The majority of them seem to be functioning OK, but there are trouble spots, not unexpected,” said Purdue University computer science professor Eugene Spafford, who was watching machine voting issues for the Association of Computing Machinery.

“The troubles largely stem from issues of volume, undertraining of personnel and, to some extent, inexperience or unanticipated problems.”

From IT World and Grant Gross:

Yasinsac, who serves the voting subcommittee of the U.S. Association for Computing Machinery, sees the potential for trouble when voting jurisdictions switch voting systems suddenly, without having time to train workers and test the systems.

“It’s difficult to get voting procedures to change in a short period of time,” Yasinsac said. “There have been issues … already of not having the procedures in place and not having experienced people who’ve run that type of system before.”

Still, Yasinsac generally believes voting officials have worked hard to minimize problems. Since 2004, more than 20 states have moved toward requiring backup paper records with touch-screen e-voting machines. “My understanding and experience is that elections officials are ready for this election, and folks should go to the polls with confidence that they will be able to vote in a timely and efficient manner,” he said.

When they’re using electronic voting machines, voters should look out for problems, such as vote-flipping that some voters have reported in West Virginia, Yasinsac said.