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November 4th, 2008
05:11 PM ET

Getting the count right

Ian P. Cook
The RAND Corporation

As the votes are finally counted, enormous questions remain about the reliability of voting machines. West Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas have reported problems with their machines. Paper ballots have been put on standby in Pennsylvania. The District of Columbia is citing voting errors due to “static electricity” found on the voters themselves.

Come Wednesday morning it may be nearly impossible to tell the difference between legitimate votes and those created or lost by the machines.

It’s too late to fix the machine problems. But it is still possible to enhance the integrity of the election. By posting on websites the raw voting data – not just the vote counts ultimately approved by precinct and state election authorities – election bodies can help deter the threat of fraud, raise the likelihood of detecting systematic errors, and elevate the level of public trust in the election results.

The United States adopted electronic-based voting and vote-counting at a rapid rate in the aftermath of the contentious 2000 election, in part supported by the Help America Vote Act. The 2002 legislation called for replacing punch-card voting systems, created the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of federal elections, and established minimum election administration standards.

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Filed under: 2008 Election • Ian P. Cook