Voting errors tallied nationwide
Page 4 of 4 -- Then, a broadly reported second study by a team at the University of California at Berkeley, using an academic statistical method, asserted that ''Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida." In Broward County alone, the study said, Bush ''appears to have received approximately 72,000 excess votes." Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, which also use touch-screens, were also cited as anomalies.
But if Bush had actually received 72,000 fewer votes in heavily Democratic Broward, his total this year would have been less than it was in 2000 -- even though nearly 132,000 more ballots were cast. Kerry won all three key counties, Broward by more than 209,000 votes.
Bush carried the state by 380,978 votes, or about 5 percent of 7.6 million cast.
If recounts are the skeptics' best hope to uncover systemic irregularities, they got off to a rocky start in New Hampshire. Completed yesterday at the request of independent candidate Ralph Nader, the Granite State re-tally of 50,600 votes in 11 towns and city wards that use optical scanners increased Kerry's total by 87 votes and Bush's by 62.
Secretary of State William M. Gardner said scanned ballots have worked well in New Hampshire. Indeed, the largest discrepancies found this year were in a legislative race involving hand-counted ballots, he said.
On deck is Ohio, which tipped the Electoral College to Bush. At the earliest, the recount of 88 counties won't begin until Dec. 13, according to the secretary of state's office, the same day the Electoral College is scheduled to formalize Bush's reelection. The recount could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Minor presidential candidates Michael Badnarik and David Cobb of the Libertarian and Green parties, respectively, have said they would formally seek the recount once the state certifies the official results Monday. They will incorporate the review of 155,000 provisional ballots, which were not included in preliminary tallies that showed Bush winning Ohio by 136,483 votes, or about 2.5 percent.
How long the recount takes will depend on whether Badnarik and Cobb ask for a manual inspection of any or all of the 5.5 million ballots, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio's secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell.
Of complaints about long lines that discouraged some from voting and allegations that there was a shortage of machines in some urban Democratic areas, LoParo said such decisions in Ohio are made by county boards of elections with two Republicans and two Democrats.
Long waits in Ohio and elsewhere resulted from the system being overwhelmed by a high turnout, said Doug Chapin, director of the nonpartisan electionline.org, which monitors reform efforts.
More attention should be paid to providing an adequate number of machines in polling places, he said, as well as ''finishing the job" mandated by the Help America Vote Act. Forty states, for example, have yet to comply with a mandate to establish a central, statewide database of registered voters. That will reduce questions about voter eligibility at election time, Chapin said.
Whatever the outcome of the recounts and the official inquiries by federal agencies, the impetus for improve voting systems will not fade, he said.
''This is not a fringe issue, because a sizable group is interested in pursuing this as a policy issue going forward," Chapin said. ''There's now a critical mass of people involved who want to address the problems that occurred in 2004. This issue is not going to go away."