E-Voting Glitches Abound: Five States with the Biggest Problems

By Debra D'Agostino  |  Posted 11-08-2006

With roughly 33 percent of all voters using new electronic equipment to cast their votes in yesterday's mid-term election, there was little surprise when precincts began reporting problems with the machines. In fact, counties in at least seven states—Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina—extended polling hours as a result of system glitches.

At the moment, however, the reported errors have been attributed to poll workers who were improperly trained on how to set up and operate the machines, not to malicious tampering or hacking of systems, as many e-voting experts had feared—except in one case where a disgruntled voter smashed an electronic voting machine in Allentown, Pa. David Bear, a spokesperson for e-voting equipment manufacturer Diebold Systems, says the reports show that while election officials need time to become more familiar with the new electronic systems (which are mandated by the Help America Vote Act), "it isn't a matter of problems with the technology or the equipment."

Was there e-voting fraud in yesterday's election?

No formal allegations of tampering have yet surfaced. However, yesterday's election should be a wake-up call to all state secretaries nationwide: Better management and tighter procedures are needed to ensure the security and accuracy of future U.S. elections. What follows is a roundup of the election's biggest foul-ups, compiled from newspapers across the nation.

Montana: Voting glitches in Yellowstone, Gallatin and Flathead counties prevented Montana from completing its tally last night, reports ABC News. As a result, election officials are currently recounting ballots by hand and hope to have the results later today.

Indiana: Like most states, Indiana's e-voting problems surfaced early in the day. According to The New York Times (registration required) roughly half of the 914 precincts in Marion County (which includes Indianapolis) reported problems getting machines to start in the early hours, and 175 were forced to resort to paper ballots as a result. In Delaware County, officials extended voting hours to 8:45 p.m. after a glitch kept citizens in 75 precincts from voting.

Ohio: In Ohio, problems with e-voting systems were so prevalent that Franklin County's phone system crashed for 90 minutes under the weight of resulting phone calls, reported the Columbus Dispatch. Meanwhile, state Rep. Jean Schmidt's ballot was rejected by the machine at her local precinct, causing it to be put aside to be counted later. Reuters reported that Cincinnati republican incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot was turned away from the polls because he lacked proper identification.

New Jersey: In New Jersey, where all voters in the state's 21 counties used e-voting systems, State Attorney General Stuart Rabner was asked to probe claims that some machines were preset with votes for the Democratic Senate candidate. Some precincts in Camden County reported problems with voting systems provided by Sequoia Inc., and county elections superintendent Phyllis Pearl told 1010wins.com that roughly 35 of the county's 700 machines had "printer or mechanical malfunctions."

Colorado: The Denver post reported widespread problems in Colorado's capital. Lawyers for the state's Democratic Party requested that polls remain open for two additional hours in Denver County because of a problem with poll books, but their request was denied. Colorado allows voters to cast ballots anywhere in their respective county; a centralized statewide voter database is used to track where their votes are cast. But network connection issues prevented the database from working properly in the morning, and the system crashed in the afternoon. As a result, many precincts resorted to paper provisional ballots; some voters were turned away when the paper ballots ran out.

Elsewhere: Smaller glitches were reported across other states as well. In Florida, voting was held up when the electronic activators used to start some e-voting machines in Broward County were accidentally erased. In Mississippi, where voters returned to the polls for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, confusing Diebold touchscreen systems slowed elections, reported MSNBC.com.

Did you experience any glitches in yesterday's election? Tell us about it.

For more information on the mid-term election, see CIO Insight's Mid-Term Election Report