No proof touch-screen voting is ‘no problem’

The senatorial primaries Tuesday were a test of the relatively new touch-screen voting equipment that has been deployed in Florida in anticipation of the upcoming presidential election. But to say “touch screens passed the test,” as the St. Petersburg Times reported Wednesday, may be a bit premature.

Not only has there been a backlog that delayed the total results to be released in Hillsborough County, there is also no way to do a recount in case the results are contested.

Ironically, one candidate who is affected by the outcome of an election that also took place Tuesday is Theresa LePore. The woman who was responsible for the design of the infamous “butterfly ballot,” which some claimed was too confusing and led to recounts in Palm Beach in the 2000 presidential election, has been unseated as election supervisor for the county. She won’t be replaced until 2005, which means she will still be supervising the upcoming presidential election.

What she is learning the hard way is that, due to patent laws and other restrictions, there are no methods in which the election outcome can be verified. The old punch-out paper ballots, including the “hanging chads” that caused the recount debacle in the last presidential election, were clearly not perfect, but at least election auditors could visually verify the election result.

As the touch-screen voting machines lack the ability to give a printout version of the final tally, election workers can only trust the machines, and can’t actually verify if the machine is working correctly.

As it is virtually impossible to detect flaws in the vote count, no mistakes can be reported. But just because no errors have been reported does not mean that none exist. To say that there have been no mistakes is therefore circular logic.

Sadly, manufacturers of the system claim it is now too late to modify the system to make recounts possible before the presidential election. What would happen if the results are contested like the results were in 2000 is hopefully something we will never have to find out. But if it were to come to that, the protests that occurred in 2000 would probably pale in comparison, all simply because recounts are impossible.