05 February 2006

Election officials fear '06 season of the glitch

By Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — More than 30 million Americans will be looking at new and unfamiliar voting machines when they cast their ballots this year, perhaps the most rapid changeover of voting equipment in history. With that change comes an increased risk of errors and confusion, election officials say.

"When you look at disaster stories, it is usually that first time using a new piece of equipment that something is going to fall apart," says Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, which maintains data on voting systems across the country.

Brace's latest update, to be released today, shows that at least 647 of the nation's 3,114 counties will be using new voting machines this year, more than at any time since records began in 1980 and probably ever, he said. Those jurisdictions are home to 30.6 million registered voters, or almost a fifth of the national total.

[...] Linda Lamone, administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections and president of the National Association of State Election Directors, says widespread worries about glitches include:

•Is there enough time to educate voters and poll workers, many of them older and not proficient with computers, before Election Day?

•Will there be adequate tech support from voting-machine manufacturers?

•How will the 25 states that require a paper backup for their computerized machines handle that — and which record will be the official one for any recount?

"Election officials are worried," Brace says. "A lot of them are saying, 'Why didn't I retire last year?' "


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