With millions of Americans expected to confront an array of voting technologies on Nov. 4, yesterday election administration experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and Verified Voting issued a 50-state report card that grades each state on its preparedness for election system breakdowns and offers concrete steps election officials can take in the weeks before the election to make sure every vote is counted accurately.
The report, Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008 finds that many states have made dramatic improvements in their voting systems, but nevertheless urges election officials to have backup measures in place-like emergency paper ballots and sound-ballot counting procedures-to ensure the integrity of the vote.
"There's no question that in the last few years, election officials around the country have made dramatic improvements that will make it much less likely that voters are disenfranchised due to voting system failures," said Lawrence Norden, director of the Voting Technology Project at the Brennan Center. "Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every voter will get to vote and every vote will be counted if something goes wrong with voting systems on Election Day," he stated.
Is America Ready to Vote? evaluates each state by four criteria: procedures for issuing emergency paper ballots, reconciling ballot tallies, providing paper records of votes cast, and post-election audits. The report reveals a broad range of preparedness across the country to address Election Day voting system meltdowns.
"In every national election since 2000, we have seen voting system failures stem from machines that won't start, memory cards that can't be read, mis-tallied votes, lost votes and more. As this report shows, most states have not adopted laws and procedures to effectively address an election system meltdown. This will hopefully be a last-minute wake-up call to jurisdictions that aren't prepared for an election system failure," said Susannah Goodman, Common Cause's director of election reform.
Is America Ready to Vote? comes in the wake of several highly publicized voting system problems this election cycle:
"Our elections are so complex and involve so many jurisdictions, technologies, voters, poll workers, technicians and election workers that some concerns are inevitable. As the machinery of our democracy becomes more complicated, however, the opportunity for error increases -- and we should be prepared," said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation.
Just this week North Carolina made a significant adjustment to its post-election audit procedures which will increase security and reliability of the audit. This change means that North Carolina's audit rating moves from "Needs Improvement" to "Generally Good," and that North Carolina is now among the six states that have instituted the best policies and procedures to prepare for voting system problems.
Is America Ready to Vote? offers best practices for each criteria, many of which can be implemented in time for the November 4th election:
"Every national election since 2000 has shown us the same thing: voting systems do fail. But we should not have to wait, as we have too often in the past, for a system failure to cause the loss of thousands of votes, or shake the public's confidence in the fairness and accuracy of our elections, before we adopt the best procedures to prevent such meltdowns. We urge states to do what they can to improve their procedures in the remaining weeks before the election," concluded Norden.