After the 2000 presidential elections, there was a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ for U.S. Presidential Elections. The reason? The results were contested due to errors in the identification and counting of votes in Florida. Twelve years after this incident, which tarnished the system, the North American giant goes back to the polls on November 7 to choose their next President, 33 senators, the House of Representatives in its entirety, 11 governors and several state legislators.
The time that’s passed may seem enough for a nation that shows breakthroughs in all fields to solve the problems of its voting system; however, the Verified Voting foundation has stated that the U.S. still have a long road ahead to match other nations when it comes to the application of e-voting.
Voting in the U.S. is complicated, since the local authorities (counties) have the autonomy to decide which voting system will be used by their citizens; this means that in a little over two weeks, 3100 voting systems will be deployed, sharing characteristics or being completely different from one another.
The evaluation by Verified Voting shows that the 50 states of the Union will employ several variations of at least three automated voting procedures, but this doesn’t mean that there are improvements which strengthen electoral guarantees compared to the 2010 elections, like for instance, the generalized use of machines that issue paper voting vouchers.
The voting scheme is a mixed one, since 66.74% of the over 180 million voters will use traditional paper ballots that have to be marked by each individual, but that will need to be read by an electronic device to be counted. The voting scanner operates by identifying the marks made by voters on the ballot and giving the vote to one of the options. There are also places which still have manual counting, but these are few.
The second method is Direct-Recording Electronic voting (DRE), which is used by 33.22% of the voters, where voters use touch-screen machines onto which they mark their choices. This system has at least 3 variants: in the first one, the machines print a voting voucher – this represents barely 8.13% of the voting population; those machines without voting vouchers account for 24.90% of the electorate. The third type, where issuing a voucher is voluntary, is regulated by the authorities and will only be used by 0.19% of the voting population.
The third voting mode is almost eradicated: the criticized punch card ballots, still adopted by very few zones and representing only 0.04% of the voters.
The map presented by Verified Voting shows that almost all the country has automated a good number of the steps involved in an election, but the percentages of votes that can be audited by the voters themselves (using machines with printing vouchers) is still very low, only 8.13%. The U.S. still have to face the challenge of embracing automated voting in full, so that the shadow cast by the 2000 Elections may finally be gone. The country has a task pending.