Two years after the 2000 presidential election was determined by a mere 537 votes (and the Supreme Court), Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to solve many of the problems that arose that year. HAVA aimed to make state electoral practices more consistent by developing statewide voter databases and addressing each component of the voting process: registration, identification, ballots and machines. The deadline for these changes was supposed to be January 1, 2006, so as to allow enough time for these upgrades to be fully integrated by the midterms this year.
But according to a new report from electionline.org, approximately half of the states, including California, Florida, New York and Ohio have failed to meet that deadline. Doug Chapin, the president of electionline.org, acknowledges the concerted efforts made by many states, but is concerned about widespread distrust towards the system if these faulty electoral systems are not rectified. “The possibility for error, and the willingness of people to challenge those errors, are both growing every day. And that could have tremendous impact on elections in 2006 and beyond,” he said.
Among the report’s findings:
In Ohio, the state legislature is still fighting over voter identification requirements In California, concerns about voting machines have left some counties with warehouses full of new e-voting machines deemed unsuitable for elections. In New York, continued inaction has left localities scrambling to replace lever machines on a short timetable. And the required statewide database has yet to be implemented – with no contract to a vendor even awarded yet. Colorado cancelled its $10 million dollar contact in December 2005, leaving the state unable to meet the federal deadline.
If the November 2006 Congressional elections come down to the wire, we could be putting our faith in what Chapin refers to as “19th century election machines.” And that could very well be how majorities in the House and Senate are won.