Los Angeles Daily News


Polling irregularities

High-tech voting hasn't served California well


Someone remind us again, what was so bad about punch-card voting?


Oh, yes, we vaguely remember grumbling after some election in 2000, something about hanging chads, Florida and the Supreme Court. But all that now seems like ancient history, whereas California's dismal experience with electronic voting machines is ongoing.


Following up on irregularities in the November special election, California's Secretary of State's Office has ordered one of the nation's largest manufacturers of voting machines - Election Systems and Software - to fix serious flaws in its systems.


And earlier last week, the secretary of state warned 17 counties about problems with certain Diebold Election Systems equipment. Both companies' machines may be deemed ineligible for use in next November's election.


It's a recurring story. In the spring of 2004, then-Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, citing the risk of breakdowns and tampering, briefly decertified the use of touch-screen voting equipment statewide. So far, the history of high-tech voting systems in California has been less than spectacular.


And that brings us back to punch-card voting.


After the Florida mess of 2004, courts and politicians were quick to denounce old-fashioned voting systems as evil, and glom on to some replacement - any replacement - as quickly as possible. But the problems of Florida were never a threat to California, where the standards for reading improperly marked ballots are far clearer. And just because something is newer doesn't necessarily mean it's better.


Honest and accurate elections are crucial to the democratic process, and if electronic voting can improve our elections, then the state should embrace it. But for now, that remains an open question. Meanwhile, the state has spent millions ditching a reliable system in favor of a costly and problematic replacement.


It's enough to make you miss those old punch cards.


Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Newspaper Group



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