For the election-obsessed among us, the two months of turbulence that followed last November’s elections for Virginia’s House of Delegates would be hard to top for its riveting back-and-forth legal drama and fingernail-biting suspense. Now, as the nation heads into midterm elections on which might hinge party control not only of several state legislatures but also of both houses of Congress, it’s not implausible to imagine similar dramas playing out across the country. Virginia’s experience holds some key lessons that policymakers and election administrators in other states should be moving quickly to follow. … Not surprisingly, many journalists couldn’t resist the analogy to another close election that involved razor-thin margins and disputed ballots. As a New York Times headline put it in late December, “Virginia Voting Mess Was Never Supposed to Happen After Bush v. Gore.” But Virginia election officials are hardly deserving of Florida 2000-like scorn. Their administration of last November’s voting certainly wasn’t perfect; the mis-assignment of District 28 voters, for example, was a non-trivial mistake. Still, it’s important to understand some key things Virginia election officials did right that allowed them to dodge what might have been a far-worse catastrophe. The most important step Virginia took — and just in the nick of time — was to revert to paper ballots and ditch its high-tech, ATM-like voting machines.
… Today, tens of millions of voters in more than two dozen states and the District of Columbia still cast their ballots on DRE machines. Nearly half of these states rely wholly or partly on older and especially vulnerable machines that don’t generate a paper trail. When a recount is needed, election officials can do little more than re-run the software program — hardly a reassuring move if there are suspicions of hacking.
Some of those states have made or are contemplating massive investments in newer machines capable of generating what’s known as a “Verified Voter Paper Audit Trail.” Ohio alone may shell out $118 million for such an upgrade. But recounts using those newer machines still would rely heavily on software code. “There’s simply no way to do a meaningful recount on any DRE machine,” says Marian Schneider, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Verified Voting.
Full Article: An Election Debacle That Didn’t Happen.