Poll chaos fears put lawyers on standby

Click to follow
The Independent US

The elections administrator in Cleveland, Ohio, will be keeping his fingers crossed that his voting machines don't unexpectedly come up with a zero vote tally, as several dozen did in the primary in May. Elections administrators in Maryland will be hoping their poll workers will have learnt how the machines work, which many of them did not in that state's primary two months ago - with calamitous results.

All across the United States, county registrars, supervisors and election judges will be praying - as they do before every election - that they have no close races on their hands. A close race for a congressional seat portends the chaos and legal tussling that beset Florida in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. The US has struggled to overcome the international embarrassment it suffered as a result of the 36-day post-electoral stand-off in Florida six years ago, which culminated in a presidential election being decided by the Supreme Court, not the voters.

Even the most cautious of election reform lobbyists anticipates problems, if not an out-and-out meltdown somewhere. Certainly, the major parties are taking no chances, flooding the swing districts in the swing states with thousands of lawyers. Despite some progress in granting freer access to the polls, election administration has, if anything, got worse since 2000. A new generation of touch screen voting terminals, introduced at vast expense to replace the punch-card machines, have turned out to be riddled with programming flaws. This is the year mandated for the introduction of new voting systems. A third of the country will be using untried machinery.