What, exactly, is an election meltdown?
by Ellen Theisen, November 10, 2006
(If you think it "ain't broke," see our Election Problem Log 2006.)
The saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But what if it IS broke, and those who could fix it say that it ain't?
Paul DeGregorio, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission;
Doug Lewis of the Election Center;
Doug Chapin of electionline.org;
Dan Tokaji, Ohio State law professor;
California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and other secretaries of state tell us that the feared "meltdown" just didn't happen on November 7, 2006.
They agree that the election went "better than expected," "relatively smoothly," with "isolated problems", "just a few glitches," "minor issues," "no major problems."
So, with multi-hundreds of news reports of election problems across the country — a fraction of the problems that actually occurred — you have to wonder what a meltdown would have to look like.
In the 2006 general election, voters were given the wrong ballots and told the wrong polling place. They stood in line for hours waiting for equipment to be fixed or more ballots to arrive. They watched their votes disappear on the screen, or flip to another candidate, or even go up in smoke — literally, when an e-voting machine short-circuited.
What if malfunctions of untested registration software in a major city — say, Denver — forced tens of thousands of voters to wait in line for hours and thousands to leave without voting? Would the election still be "smooth"?
What if voting machines failed at thousands of polling places in over half the states, and the problems caused such severe delays in eight states that the voting hours were extended? Is that "just a few glitches"?
What if voting machines of every brand switched people's votes or lost their votes in states from Florida to Pennsylvania to Illinois to Texas to Kentucky to South Carolina to Maryland to Georgia to Virginia to ... "No major problems?"
What if dozens of people reported that their votes for one Congressional race disappeared from the touch screen, and the election director refused to take the machines out of service, and the results showed that 13% of the voters (18,000) hadn't registered a vote in that race? And what if the margin of victory was 368 votes, and there was no way to audit the results? A "minor" problem?
What if polling places all across the largest state in the nation, as well as other states, ran out of paper ballots and the voting machines didn't work? Are these "isolated problems"?
What if 66 electronic ballot boxes (memory cards) were missing in a major city, and only 23 had been found after an extensive search, and the election director said she loses them all the time and normally no one pays any attention, but this time four local races hung in the balance? Is this "smooth" to the people whose ballots were lost in Indianapolis?
And then ... what if partisan control of the United States Senate depended on one race in one state, where the reported margin of victory was three-tenths of a percent, and a recount was impossible because there was no way to recover voter intent from the electronic tallies? In what world is this "better than expected"?
If the Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, Secretaries of State, and other influential names in election administration continue calling these dysfunctional election occurrences "normal glitches," when will the system get fixed?
I do not believe
that there is an honest election possible anymore
with these machines.
~ Evelyn Graham
Hazleton City Councilwoman (KY)
2004 to 2009
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