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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Electronic Vote suppression

Perhaps the most important finding in Card and Moretti study I blogged about last week is that electronic voting seems to suppress turnout. The Berkeley economists found that voter turnout fell by seven tenths of a percentage point in counties that switched to touch screen voting, compared to what would be expected based on past voting patterns and county demographics. Card and Moretti suggest that some voters may distrust or be intimidated by the machines, and so been deterred from voting.

It seems to me that there's a much more obvious interpretation: electronic voting machines don't work all that well. There's certainly tons of anecdotal evidence. In the last election, watchdog groups recorded over 2,000 reports of trouble with voting machines, three quarters specifying electronic voting machines.

Here's a report from one precinct in Houston.

"Yes, there are six machines down. I got there at 8 o'clock and they have been down since," said voter Melita Warren. "The tech does not know how to fix it. She is reading the manual, so therefore I should have been at work a long time ago."

A private election watchdog group documented the problems.

"Long lines, an hour and half wait. People (were) coming in at 7:30 and not leaving until 9," said Mary Huffine.

No one knows how many voters left before casting their ballots and there is no way of knowing who will be back

All 11 E-slate machines are working now, but it took three technicians to come out to the site and fix the problem. Officials told Eyewitness News it should have just taken one technician to do the repairs.

There is still no word on what exactly was wrong with the equipment. Several other precincts were having problems with the E-slate machines as well.

For more, see VotersUnite.org or the National Academy of Sciences Electronic voting Committee.

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