Doug Chapin


VOL. XXIII • Spring 2005 • NO. 3 (table of contents)

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23 John Marshall J. of Comp. & Info. Law 553


In general Election Day of 2004 proceeded surprisingly smoothly and although some problems were reported, by and large they were best characterized as “no big and lots of littles.” In the end, the margins of victory in most races during the 2004 election exceeded the margin of litigation, meaning the trouble that arose in many states would most likely not have changed the outcome.

In the immediate aftermath of Election Day, however, a closer look at experiences around the country revealed widespread problems that, while immaterial to the outcome of the election, nonetheless indicate that much remains to be done in the field of election administration – especially with regard to voting technology. Such problems included tabulation for the ranked-choice voting temporarily halted due to the system being unprepared for the high voter turnout, glitches in ballot tabulators causing the machine to start counting backwards or under-counting, over-counting, ballot mix-ups causing voters to cast ballots in the wrong State House race, voting machines being down for hours due to an encoder problem., data transmission problems, possibly caused by human error, ballot counting machines breaking on Election Night, delaying the final.

While the reviews were mixed and data on machine performance is still being gathered nationwide, it is nonetheless clear that Election Day 2004 did nothing to change the minds of those who previously had been strongly supporting or opposing the use of paperless voting technology. It is too early to know how machines of any stripes performed versus other systems. DREs have received special attention from many circles, mostly because of concerns over hacking, malicious code and ties between companies that produce the machines and political parties and candidates.

Lost in the post-election focus on technological problems, however, is one aspect that dominated Election Day 2004: quite simply, the appearance of an electoral system simply overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to use it. Consequently, long lines, shortages and other turnout related problems were rampant on November 2. These apparent problems, as much as technology-specific concerns, suggest that election reform is shifting from a political and/or technological to a public administration issue – meaning that resource management and allocation issues are likely to achieve prominence alongside technology and policy in the election reform conversation in 2005 and beyond.

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