Who Really Won?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Diebold and Ohio: Imperfect Together

Subtle format problems on paper ballots made them unreadable in optical scanners in the May primary election, delaying Cuyahoga County's vote tally for days, a review of the machine problems found.

The election, the county's first using Diebold Inc.'s touch-screen and optical-scan voting systems, had an array of problems, including poll workers not showing up or not sufficiently trained in electronic voting.

Officials ordered a hand count of more than 18,000 paper ballots after the optical scan machines produced inconsistent tabulations. The machines are used for absentee votes or in other circumstances when touch-screen voting was not possible.

Monday, July 17, 2006

No Dollar, Yet A Dream

To anyone who has ever said, "I wouldn't vote for that bum for a million bucks," Arizona may be calling your bluff.

A proposal to award $1 million in every general election to one lucky resident simply for voting - no matter for whom - has qualified for the November ballot.

Mark Osterloh, a political gadfly who is behind the initiative, the Arizona Voter Reward Act, is promoting it with the slogan, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Vote!" He collected 185,902 signatures of registered voters, far more than the 122,612 required, and last week the secretary of state certified the measure for the ballot this autumn.

If the general election in 2004 is a guide, when more than two million people voted, the odds of 1 in 2 million of winning the election lottery would be far better than the American lottery known as the Powerball jackpot (currently about 1 in 146,107,962) - but not nearly as great as dying from a lightning strike (1 in 55,928).

"People buy a lot of lottery tickets now," Osterloh said, "and the odds of winning this are much, much higher." (And most of the time there is not much lightning in Arizona.)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Taking the Good With the Bad

Some good news this week:

The House yesterday easily approved an extension of key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, after GOP leaders quelled a rebellion within the party's Southern ranks that threatened to become a political embarrassment.

Before the 390 to 33 vote to extend the measure for a quarter-century, the House defeated four amendments that would have diluted two expiring provisions and possibly derailed final passage before the November congressional elections.

And some more in the Georgia photo ID controversy:

With less than two weeks to go before the July 18 primary, a Superior Court judge on Friday issued a restraining order blocking enforcement of Georgia's voter ID law.

"The Court finds the current statute unduly burdens the fundamental right to vote rather than regulate it and irreparable harm will result if the 2006 Photo ID Act is not enjoined," Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland wrote.

Of course, Republicans can't accept allowing more people to vote:

Georgia's attorney general on Monday filed an emergency appeal of a judge's order blocking enforcement of the state's voter photo ID law in next week's primary elections.

Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker filed the motion in the Georgia Supreme Court on behalf of Gov. Sonny Perdue, according to Richard Diguette, a spokesman for Georgia's high court. The motion seeks to stay a temporary restraining order issued Friday by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Help America Vote? Not Yet

Congress set up the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to advise states as part of the Help America Vote Act, but it took nine months to even get its members confirmed. The Rev. DeForest "Buster" Soaries, a Republican and the first head of the EAC, arrived in Washington in late 2003 and found a commission lacking real power. "Instead of hitting the ground running," says Soaries, who resigned in 2005, "we hit the ground looking for office space to borrow." Congress has since allocated more money to the commission, but critics carp that EAC still lacks regulatory power. The result: a patchwork quilt of problem-plagued state and county regulations. "You can go to 12 precincts in one county on Election Day and see 12 different procedures," says Mike Alvarez, codirector of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. "I think that will bedevil elections."