Date Published: 2008-11-30
Author(s):Charles Stewart III, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The 2000 election brought the issue of voting machine performance to national attention. According to the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (2001), up to 2 million votes were lost in 2000 owing to problems associated with faulty voting machines and confusing ballots. Stewart (2006) estimated that one million votes were “recovered” in the 2004 presidential election because of the Help America Vote Act’s (HAVA) requirement that punch card ballots and lever machines be replaced by more modern optically scanned ballots and direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines.
The role of technology in guarding the franchise in the United States has grown even more controversial since 2000. Most notably, a large number of computer scientists and election reform activists have identified what they perceive to be inherent security vulnerabilities associated with DREs (Mercuri 1992; Neumann 1985, 1990, 1993; Howland 2004; Dill 2003; Rubin 2003; Kohno, et al 2004). This alarm has spread more broadly to a large portion of the electorate, leading to efforts nationwide to ban electronic voting that lacks a “paper trail” (Alvarez and Hall 2008). More broadly, regular citizens, activists, and election professionals have become concerned with the performance of different voting technologies from a time-andmotion and/or human factor perspective. Among these concerns are issues like the lifetime cost of different technologies, the ease of use of technologies, and the throughput capacity of different types of voting machines.