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Opinion: E-voting transition a disaster

A smooth transition to electronic balloting? Not so fast, America

By Brad Friedman
November 10, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE SLAYS NINE
Terrorizes Florida in Thrill-Kill Rampage

That headline was from a satirical column written by Andy Borowitz published last Monday, the day before Tuesday's midterm elections. Unfortunately, given the post-election coverage by some of the nation's leading media -- or at least their headline writers -- it seems that only an event such as a Diebold voting machine becoming "unmoored from the floor and...trampling everyone and everything in its path," as Borowitz wrote, would qualify as anything more than a "glitch," "hiccup," "snag" or "snafu."

"Voting System Worked, With Some Hiccups," declared the AP headline on Wednesday. "Polling Places Report Snags, but Not Chaos," echoed The New York Times. "Hiccups"? "Snags"? Try telling that to the thousands of voters around the country who were unable to simply cast a vote last Tuesday because new, untested electronic voting machines failed to work. Monumentally. Across the entire country.

"Not Chaos"? Apparently the Times headline writers failed to check with the folks in Denver who were lined up around the block for hours to vote. They didn't even bother to read the Denver Post article headlining the problem as a "Voting Nightmare" during the day on Tuesday and quoting voter Lauren Brockman saying, "We will not get to vote today," after he had shown up before work to vote at 6:45 a.m. at the Botanic Gardens only to wait on line for an hour before giving up.

They didn't check with Bill Ritter, the Colorado gubernatorial candidate, who had to wait almost two hours to vote, or with Sean Kelley, a Denver resident, who said to the Post, "I can't believe I'm in the United States of America," before he gave up and went home without voting after waiting three hours in line when electronic machines broke down. Despite an emergency request, the courts in Colorado refused to allow the city's new consolidated "Election Centers" to remain open for extra hours that night.

Similar problems led to slightly more responsible officials ordering polls to be kept open longer than scheduled in at least eight other states due to voting machine problems. In a Times story published the day before (which apparently the headline writers of the previously mentioned piece failed to read), it was reported that in Illinois "hundreds of precincts were kept open ... because of late openings at polling places related to machine problems" and in Indiana "voting equipment problems led to extensions of at least 30 minutes in three counties."

Other states where polls remained open late due to the inability of legally registered voters to vote when they showed up earlier in the day include Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio.



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