- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006


There is still some fine-tuning to be done, but electronic voting worked well in most of the midterm elections, even with one-third of American voters facing ballot machines they had not used before.

Tuesday’s elections were far less troubled than in 2004, when malfunctioning voting machines and crowded polls delayed counts for days, most notably in the crucial state of Ohio.

There were certainly some hiccups, though.

Voting machines were slow to start in several states, and poll workers and voters often struggled to figure out the new equipment.

In Oregon, a problem that bogged down other states in 2004 surfaced again this year: Paper ballots that were too long and a flood of last-minute votes slowed the scanning, leaving about a tenth of the vote still uncounted at midday yesterday, officials said.

Illinois election officials had trouble transmitting vote counts, which also delayed a decision in the Cook County board president’s race by a day.

In most other states, though, the electronic-voting glitches were minor and didn’t slow the count.

“People can be confident of the outcome,” said Doug Chapin of the nonpartisan Electionline.org, which monitors polling problems and had warned of computer glitches. “Things went well.”

More than 80 percent of the nation’s voters cast some type of electronic ballot on Tuesday — the deadline for major reforms mandated by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.

The act, passed by Congress after the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida, required or helped states to replace outdated voting equipment, establish voter registration databases, require better voter identification and provide provisional ballots in case of problems.

“[T]here are issues that election officials are going to have to look at before the election of 2008,” Mr. Chapin said.

Software problems prompted a recount in one Texas county after a long-shot candidate was incorrectly awarded a wide margin. A shortage of paper ballots led to Boston police delivering extra ballots during rush hour.

In Ohio, voting-machine problems persuaded a judge to keep 16 polls open an extra 90 minutes. But compared with machine shortages that kept college students standing in line for hours in 2004 and a malfunction in suburban Columbus that year that gave President Bush thousands of extra votes, this year’s problems were light.

Oregon’s vote counting problems were blamed on a deluge of last-minute ballots and a scanning machine glitch in one county, said state Elections Director John Lindback. In Washington County, the ballot was 17 inches long, rather than the usual 11 inches, and that slowed the machines counting the ballots, he said.

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