Voting Glitches on Primary Day

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As Sasha Abramsky amply details in his recent Mother Jones article, voting can be a dicey business these days, in spite of–and in many cases because of “improvements” introduced by the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Tuesday’s primaries brought fresh evidence that the machinery of American democracy doesn’t run smoothly everywhere. In Ohio, Texas, Florida, California, and Chicago, (poorly trained) poll workers had difficulty operating new voting machines, or didn’t show up; and in one place, suburban Washington D.C., essential voting equipment was missing.

Voting machine companies blame poll workers, often no doubt with good reason. “If you prick their fingers and there’s blood coming out, they serve,” R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, which represents state and local election officials, told USA Today. But of course the machines themselves have a history of screwing up, often in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. (And, of course, they can be hacked.)

Some of the problems can be put down to the pace of (enforced) change–resulting in, for example, some counties receiving their touch-screen machines only two weeks before voting day. And many should be ironed out by November. (Yes?) But some election officials take a gloomy view. “I really believe that we’ve got a crisis of confidence in our voting systems,” says one from Travis County, Texas.

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