States have abandoned electronic voting machines in droves, ensuring that most voters will be casting their ballots by hand on Election Day. With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, officials have opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace. Nearly 70 percent of voters will be casting ballots by hand on Tuesday, according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting. “Paper, even though it sounds kind of old school, it actually has properties that serve the elections really well,” Smith said. It’s an outcome few would have predicted after the 2000 election, when the battle over “hanging chads” in the Florida recount spurred a massive, $3 billion federal investment in electronic voting machines.
States at the time ditched punch cards and levers in favor of touch screens and ballot-scanners, with the perennial battleground state of Ohio spending $115 million alone on upgrades. Smith said the mid-2000s might go down as the “heyday” of electronic voting. Since then, states have failed to maintain the machines, partly due to budget shortfalls.
… More than 60 percent of states passed similar laws with the electronic switch. Some states moved preemptively; others were reactionary.
An electronic machine in North Carolina lost roughly 4,500 votes in a 2004 statewide race after it simply stopped recording votes. The race was ultimately decided by fewer than 2,000 votes. “Now what do you do?” Smith asked. “You can’t really do a recount. There’s nothing to count.” Within a year, the state passed a law requiring a paper back-up. Paper trails are simply “more resilient,” Smith said.
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