Pointing the Way to More Reliable Voting
LYNN NEARY, Host:
There was no voting meltdown last Tuesday a la Florida 2000, but there were still lots of problems at polling sites across the country. Now voting rights advocates and election officials are reviewing the results to figure out what needs to be fixed before 2008. NPR's Pam Fessler reports.
PAM FESSLER: And Tova Wang at the Century Foundation says there would've been disputes over counting provisional ballots cast by voters who ran into problems at the polls.
TOVA WANG: Virginia's law is that if you cast a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct, which in many instances can mean you went to the wrong desk in the right gymnasium, that vote will be thrown away.
FESSLER: And that's troublesome in a state where some voters reported receiving phone calls directing them to the wrong polling sites, something the FBI is investigating. Tova Wang says while things could've been worse on Tuesday, they were bad enough.
WANG: I think the bar should be really high when we're talking about our democracy and that even though it didn't affect any of the outcomes that we can tell so far, the fact that we know that thousands of people most likely were denied the right to vote through various mechanisms this year really indicates that we have some work to do.
FESSLER: Many voters had to wait hours to cast their ballots because of insufficient equipment or malfunctioning machines. Others found that their names weren't on voter registration lists or that they were asked to show ID they didn't have. There were also reports of vote flipping, where a voter pressed one name on a touch screen machine only to have it register for someone else.
DAVID DILL: This problem is disgraceful.
FESSLER: David Dill is a computer scientist at Stanford University and founder of the Verified Voting Foundation, which questions the use of electronic voting equipment.
DILL: People are speculating that it has to do with calibration of touch screens and whatever. But we don't have the definitive answer. And we can't leave it to the vendors or people who are just speculating to answer. We need a serious technical and independent investigation where the results are made public.
FESSLER: Paul DeGregorio is chairman of the Federal Election Assistance Commission. He thinks things went pretty well this week, considering.
PAUL DEGREGORIO: It's an election that was a transition election for many jurisdictions around the country to new equipment and voters being introduced to new equipment for the first time.
FESSLER: Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.
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