Wide Divide In States’ Voting Preparedness

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(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

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(Washington) CBS - Nearly four months before the 2012 national elections, a study on U.S. voting preparedness has found that some states are far more ready than others.

Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were all labeled as the “best prepared” states for voting problems and disenfranchisement protection. While on the other hand, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina are the six “least-prepared” states.

The Rutgers Law School released the study that evaluates each state’s preparedness for the 2012 election. According to the study, computerized voting systems have failed in every national election in the past decade in some way: they haven’t started, they failed in the middle of voting, the memory cards couldn’t be read, or the votes were lost as a whole.

The study used five categories of proven failures and successes as its basis for judgment in each state. They also protect against machine failures that can change election outcomes and disenfranchised voters.

-Does the state require paper ballots or records of every state?

-Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure?

-Does the state protect military and overseas voters by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online?

-Has the state instituted a post-election audit that can determine whether the electronically reported outcomes are correct?

-Does the state use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices?

Based upon the criteria questions listed above, states had a wide range of varying issues. Sixteen states use paperless machines in some or all counties – meaning they produce no independent record of their vote cast should there be any machine malfunction.

Many Southern states – Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina — all received “inadequate” or “needs improvement” grades in their overall assessment. On the other side, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Ohio were all listed as “good.”

There were also many improvements listed in the study, especially since the 2000 national election which was only resolved after months of recounts and court trials regarding George W. Bush and Al Gore’s votes. One notable improvement is that every state now has at least one contingency preparation plan for possible equipment failures. And no states were ranked with an “inadequate” rating of general accounting and reconciliation practices.

Many states did not use electronic voting machines until after the 2000 national election. Now, the study and national officials recommend that states use electronic and paper ballots in tandem. In the 2008 national election, U.S. voter turnout was 61 percent. With less possibility of disenfranchisement or electronic malfunction, officials hope that number may increase because voters will feel more comfort with the voting process.

The study concludes by suggesting, “Although it takes effort and resources to do so, our best practices have already been implemented in a number of states, with overwhelmingly positive results. We recommend that every state adopt the best practices in this report in order to safeguard our democracy.”

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