The multiplicity of electronic voting models employed in the United States makes it hard to track the technologies made available to over 180 million voters during each election.
It is indeed a gargantuan task, yet the Verified Voting Foundation has closely followed the process of automating American voting for years. Facing the upcoming November 8th elections, the NGO has released an electronic voting map of the nation.
This map shows the country’s diversity in electoral technology; which stems from the fact that each county in the nation has the legal autonomy to decide what kind of automation it employs.
When mapping the use of automated voting models, Verified Voting reveals that one of the most common technologies (used in jurisdictions in all 50 states) pertains to traditional paper ballots that are marked by hand and read by a scanner. This vote counting device identifies the marks made by the voters on each ballot and tallies the choices made. Some counties in 23 states still have a manual vote count, and in three of these the whole voting process is done via mail.
In addition to automated counting, the Foundation’s report shows another mechanism with some degree of penetration: Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) machines, which are employed in 31 of the 50 states of the Union.
DRE machines have a touch screen or an interface (with buttons or wheels) which voters use to make their selections. There are at least 3 variants in the United States: devices that print a voter-verified paper trail, whose use is authorized but which are only employed in some jurisdictions in 8 states; machines that do not produce a voucher, present in counties in 12 different states; and a third type of DRE devices that can either print paper trails or not, are present in circuits in 22 states but whose application is determined by the authorities.
The picture is completed by jurisdictions in 40 states that have machines to help voters with physical disabilities (mobility issues, absence of limbs) or sensory ones (visual and hearing impairments), and by two counties in Idaho that still employ punch card readers; these have been replaced en masse starting in 2000 after severe issues with the vote count in Florida.
The work from this NGO shows that the whole nation has automated several stages of the voting, but in spite of the great variety of machines to enable the process, there are still counties where votes are still counted manually, and the jurisdictions that can audit the election (by using devices that print paper trails) are still but a scant few.
In the light of these results, Verified Voting deems the country can continue moving forward, as technology still has much to offer toward building a new map where all counties in the United States have the best tools to optimize voting.