Ohio Election Portends Trouble

Six years ago the world watched dumbfounded as the Florida 2000 fiasco exposed the messy underbelly of U.S. election administration. Since then states have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new electronic voting equipment to ensure that the nation would never experience such mishaps again.

But two recent and lengthy reports examining this year’s May primary in Cuyahoga County, Ohio — a pivotal state where the electoral votes gave President Bush his second win in 2004 — make it clear that Florida-like fiascos are far from behind us.

The reports, totaling more than 500 pages, paint a disturbing picture of how million-dollar equipment and security safeguards can quickly be undone by poor product design, improper election procedures and inadequate training. From destroyed ballots and vote totals that didn’t add up to lost equipment and breaches in security protocols, Cuyahoga’s primary is a perfect study in how not to run an election.

The findings have ominous national implications. Cuyahoga County could play an important role in deciding two races in next week’s election that will help decide which party controls the Senate and House. But one of the reports concluded that problems in the county were so extensive that meaningful improvements likely could not be achieved before that election, or even before the 2008 presidential election.

Moreover, few voting activists and election experts believe the problems are unique to Cuyahoga.

“I suspect that Cuyahoga County may be below average (in terms of how well it ran its election), but if you lift up the rock and look at election administration across the country, you’ll see the same thing elsewhere,” says David Dill, Stanford computer scientist and founder of VerifiedVoting.org, a proponent of paper-verified elections.


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