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One Man, One Vote, One Big Mess

Election Day is almost here and you're all excited to hit the polls and cast your ballot.

But wait, what's all this grumbling that your ballot may not get counted properly? That some new-fangled voting machines are gonna eat your vote or some hacker kid is going to figure out a way to swing the Senate race to the Libertarian Party?

The controversy over electronic voting and ballot counting has only intensified since it became a much-talked about matter in the 2004 cycle. Here's a collection of links to catch you up on the issue:

First, just how exactly will you cast your vote on Tuesday? Several Web sites will help you figure out if you'll be touching screens or punching chads, including the nonpartisan ElectionLine.org and the tech news site ComputerWorld.com.

Here's a 2004 washingtonpost.com reporting project that explored the e-voting controversy. It includes a map that Washington, D.C.-area voters can use to see what kind of machinery they will deal with at the polls.

Looking for a more thorough introduction to the topic? Check out a report that the technology news site Wired.com produced last year.

The Sky Is Falling

There are plenty of e-voting skeptics, and they range from outright conspiracy theorists who charge that the voting machine manufacturers are colluding with Republicans to fix elections, to academics concerned that some machines are not adequately secure or technologically stable.

BlackBoxVoting.org takes a decidedly combative stance toward electronic balloting and voting machine manufacturers. A new HBO documentary entitled "Hacking Democracy" offers a similar view, though the Post's reviewer was less than kind.

Though some consider the stances of BlackBoxVoting.org and "Hacking Democracy" to be extreme, real problems at the polls in several states during this year's primaries lend some credence to the critics of e-voting. In the Washington, D.C. region, the Sept. 12 primary in Maryland was marked by significant problems in Montgomery County.

Last month, ElectionLine.org issued a report saying that ten "states, and possibly others, could encounter trouble on Election Day because they have a combustible mix of fledgling voting-machine technology, confusion over voting procedures or recent litigation over election rules -- and close races," according to a Washington Post piece.

In fact, the Post's pages have been full of stories along these lines this year:

* Major Problems At Polls Feared (Sept. 17)

* Tech Trouble in the Voting Booth (July 26)

* Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting (May 30)

Amid the turmoil a variety of watchdog groups are focusing their efforts on ensuring fair elections, including VoteTrustUSA.org and VotersUnite.org.

A Win for Voters and Democracy

Don't buy into the paranoia, say the companies that make electronic voting machinery. Diebold Election Systems, an Ohio-based company that has become the focus of many anti-e-voting campaigners, issued a tough rebuttal to the HBO documentary mentioned above (more from the company here).

Other manufacturers of e-voting machines include Sequoia Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software and Advanced Voting Solutions.

The much villified companies have found allies in the leaders of the disability community, who are supportive of electronic voting systems, concluding that they are a significant step forward in ensuring accessible polling stations. This Wired.com story from 2004 has some details on e-voting and the disabled.

This year, the National Federation for the Blind will be monitoring the performance of new voting systems. Here's a look at voting machinery built specifically with disabled citizens in mind.

Chat About E-Voting on Friday and Monday

Avi Rubin, a vocal critic of electronic voting systems, will be online Friday at 11 a.m. ET to answer washingtonpost.com readers' questions. Rubin is the author of "Brave New Ballot," which was reviewed last month by The Post's Zachary Goldfarb.

On Monday, Edward W. Felten, director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, will be online at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the center's study on the vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines.

-- Russ Walker

By washingtonpost.com Editors  |  November 3, 2006; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Fix Notes  
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