What We Talk About When We Talk About Voting Machines

I suppose post-election time is as good a time as any to talk about voting machine flaws, particularly following a decisive presidential election. But, just like falling gas prices in the short-term are no indication of an ebbing crisis, decisive elections don’t spell an end to glitches in the voting system.

Of course, we have Alaska and Minnesota to occupy our time for us close-election junkies, but in New Jersey, delays in improving the voting system have spanned several elections cycles, and do not appear to be letting up.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that state election officials have, again, asked for more time in retrofitting about 10,000 voting machines with paper printers — a measure that advocacy groups have long pushed for, culminating in a state law enacted in 2005. The entire proposal would cost the state about $26 million.

The paper printers would not give up a receipt for voters, but would instead display hard-copy evidence that a vote had been recorded. One of the major complaints with the electronic voting machines was that voters did not feel reassured that their votes had been cast, due to a lack of mechanical affirmation.

But elections officials want to change that approach, and simply retrofit only a handful of machines.

From the article:

The proposal instead would authorize fitting touch-screen voting machines in one municipality with the printers for the June primary, then studying how they work.

Ah, putting together a commission to analyze the results. This should tack on at least another five years toward achieving what some would regard as “progress.”

The state legislature here has twice imposed deadlines for the retrofitted machines, only to see those deadlines basically kicked aside due to myriad complications, including paper printer flaws found following an analysis conducted by New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers.

According to the Inquirer piece:

More than 20 states have scrapped electronic voting machines. Elections officials in states including California, Florida and Ohio cited server issues, printer problems, questions about whether correct votes are being registered, and even hacking concerns.

A contingent of advocacy groups have battled for years to require a receipt upon voting, and, in fact, sued the state to stop electronic voting. Now, those groups are simply calling for a revert back to paper balloting.

According to the Inquirer, more than 20 states have scrapped electronic voting machines, with elections officials in California, Florida and Ohio pointing to server and printer problems, questions about whether correct votes are being registered, as well as concerns over potential hacking.

Usually, at this point, I’ll make some appeal to state officials reading this to get in gear, but I’ll let Republican Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande speak for me here:

In the three years since the law mandating a paper trail be created to serve as a backup to electronic voting we have seen nothing but delays and excuses.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


  1. I don’t know about you, but the lines to vote on election day were outlandish. It’s a sad state affairs when people have to wait over 2 hours just to cast their presidential vote—in the largest and most powerful democracy on the planet. Considering everyone knew turnout this year would be the highest in decades, it’s appalling that this is the state of things. It’s actually funny how voting has changed in America over the years. The idea that common, everyday citizens could vote in privacy on matters of national import, was never really the intent. That said, we are making some incremental steps the right, yet frustrating, direction.


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