Who Really Won?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Why We Should Care

Even if there's never any proof of fraud, we can certainly do better counting the votes that are allowed to be cast:

- A review of election results in a 10-county sampling revealed more than 12,000 ballots that failed to record a vote for president, almost one in every 10 ballots cast. The unofficial audit by Scripps Howard News Service uncovered malfunctioning voting machines, improperly designed ballots and poor accounting procedures around the nation.

The review of certified election returns led authorities to restore 662 votes for president in Louisiana and West Virginia that had been miscounted in easily detectable errors made by local officials.

But most of the ballots discovered missing in the study will remain lost.

"I'm so upset over this that I can't sleep," said Sandy Campbell, clerk of Pike County, Ark., upon learning that a damaged optical scanning machine permanently lost nearly 700 votes. "We had no idea this had happened. But I'll know what to look for in the future. We'll try never to let this happen again."

The study - part of a yearlong project examining errors in America's election practices - checked the accuracy of the Nov. 2 election by comparing official results for president against the reported number of ballots cast in more than 2,400 counties nationwide.

Ten counties with some of the nation's worst voting record discrepancies were selected in the project. Local election officials were asked why their vote tallies didn't match their ballot counts.

All but one county official admitted they did not make this important crosscheck before reporting results that, most now concede, contained significant errors. State officials also failed to notice the discrepancies.

"This speaks to the need for states to be more thorough," said DeForest Soaries, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, after seeing results of the Scripps Howard study. "Every state is accountable to ensure their procedures and practices deliver election results with integrity."