Friday, November 05, 2004

Voting Problems

If you read any of the news immediately after the election, it sounded as though voting went off without a hitch. However, recent reports indicate that a number of problems did occur:
  • An Ohio electronic voting error gave Bush an extra 3,893 votes in Franklin County - Yahoo news and CNN

  • A south Florida machine lost 70,000 votes for a ballot measure - reported in two Miami Herald articles (from the blog Blue Lemur)

  • Craven County (North Carolina) had problems collecting precinct data, double counting ~11,000 votes, and then compounded the problem with human error before it was fixed - The Sun Journal

  • LaPorte County (Indiana) officials discovered that their vote totals only listed 300 registered voters in each precinct, forcing them to stop the count. They're still trying to solve the problem according to the article - The News-Dispatch

  • Palm Beach County (Florida) logged 88,000 more votes than voters - reported on the website Washington Dispatch; the county has since revised their numbers.

  • Approximately 4,000 early votes were irretrievably lost in Carteret County (North Carolina) due to problems with an electronic voting system - The Sun Journal
These problems were (obviously) caught, and in most cases were able to be corrected. However, the question quickly arises: since there were problems in some precincts, are there problems that have not yet been detected in other precincts? Only by carefully analyzing election data from across the country can we determine how many problems there were, and that's exactly what some Democratic congressmen are asking be done (Wired article).

I've read some arguments that since Bush's lead is large enough that most errors wouldn't have changed the outcome, we should not even bother looking for errors. I find this illogical. First, we do not know the magnitude of any potential errors at this point; no major discrepancies have been proven to have occurred, but there also hasn't been much time to look for them. Second, even if correcting errors in this election would not change the outcome, it's still important to discover and correct the underlying causes so future elections will be more accurate.

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