Sunday, March 28, 2004

Voting system options

Paper ballot

Pro: Very low cost, accurate, easy to verify.

Con: Slow to tabulate.

In 2000: Used by 1.3 percent of U.S. voters, mostly in rural areas (2004 estimate: 0.6 percent).

Lever machine

Pro: Easy to tabulate by reading counters at the end of the voting day.

Con: Prone to mechanical failures; causes errors if voters do not pull levers all the way; machines no longer made; no paper backup of vote.

In 2000: Used by 17.8 percent of voters, including some in Ohio (2004 estimate: 12.8 percent).

Punch card ballot

Pro: Technology in common use, familiar since 1960s, low cost and simplicity.

Con: Causes "overvoting" errors; ballot layouts can confuse voters, causing mistakes; paper jams; inaccuracy from holes being incompletely punched, i.e. "hanging chads."

In 2000: Used by 34.4 percent of voters, including most of Ohio (2004 estimate: 18.6 percent).

Optical scan ballot

Pro: Straightforward, accurate scanning technology; technique familiar to voters from standardized tests taken in school.

Con: Voters must mark spaces in ballot carefully.

In 2000: Used by 27.5 percent of voters, including some in Ohio (2004 estimate: 32.2 percent).

Electronic touch screen

Pro: Easy to use and nearly foolproof for the voter, eliminating overvotes; technology familiar, similar to ATMs, lottery machines, etc.

Con: Usually no paper verification of vote; questions about system's security from internal fraud and external hackers.

In 2000: Used by 10.7 percent of voters, including most of Kentucky (2004 estimate: 28.9 percent)

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Voting system options