For months, a group of election activists has complained about Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s oversight of touch-screen voting machines used throughout Colorado that critics say are vulnerable to tampering and malfunctions. Gessler argues strongly that the voting machines are reliable, but critics say that in a close presidential election in swing state Colorado, and in places like Arapahoe County — where touch-screen machines are still the principal means of casting an in-person ballot — a mishap with the devices could tilt the race. Colorado’s touch-screen machines, they say, could become the “hanging chads” of 2012. “The secretary of state has not enforced his own voting security laws and regulations for touch-screen machines since he was elected,” said Paul Hultin, an attorney representing a group of voters who brought a 2006 lawsuit challenging the machines’ reliability.
All counties have at least a few of the machines, which can be adapted to assist disabled voters to cast ballots, but only Arapahoe— a swing county — and Adams and Weld counties use the machines as the principal method for casting an in-person vote. While most Coloradans now cast their ballots by mail, clerks in these three counties estimate that, together, more than 100,000 people will use the touch-screen machines to vote.
… National critics of touch-screen machines echo Hultin’s concerns about the devices. Pamela Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Southern California, says that one of the problems with the touch-screen machines is it would be difficult to tell if they had been manipulated, hence the need for security protocols.
Critics point out that while there have been no documented instances of hacking into a touch-screen machine during an election, there have been instances of malfunctions, such as a machine in North Carolina that lost nearly 4,500 votes in 2004.