Who Really Won?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Study exposes election glitches

From dailypennsylvanian.com

The first nationwide election tracking system, sponsored in part by the Fels Institute of Government at Penn, has revealed that significant failures with voter registration marred the presidential election.
The MyVote1 system ran from Philadelphia's Constitution Center throughout Election Day, and tracked voting difficulties reported by individuals across the country. Thousands of people who encountered obstacles while trying to vote phoned a toll-free number that recorded their complaint and automatically forwarded their calls to a local election officer for possible redress.

From 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, graduate students from Penn and other schools received about 100,000 calls from frustrated voters.

Using the data, researchers identified the general areas of voter registration, absentee ballots and poll location information as the main problems in an electoral system that is widely administered at the county level across the country.

"In all three areas, local election boards failed," VoterLink President Ken Smuckler said. "I think what happened ... is that in battleground states, the number of organizations running absentee ballot programs [and] registration programs overwhelmed local secretaries and registration processes."

The researchers' most disturbing finding, though, was that a majority of people seeking redress were unable to reach an officer.

"Fifty-five percent of all calls on Election Day failed to connect to the election board," Fels Executive Director Chris Patusky said. "That's a terrible thing. The whole system of redress on Election Day is broken."

Some of the swing states proved to be the most problematic. A high volume of calls came from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. But Pittsburgh and Allegheny County in Pennsylvania reported the most complaints of any location in the country.

"There was a pattern with all the hot spots -- these were places where we had heard there was partisan voting registration coming together," said Cecilia Martinez, executive director of the Reform Institute -- a Republican voting reform organization that was part of the consortium working on MyVote1.