Despite all the wonders modern technology has dumped on us, it has yet to create a foolproof, fraudproof way for 150 million Americans to vote. But while the nation’s smartest computer scientists and cryptography experts have been busy churning out ideas to solve our voting woes once and for all, their efforts may be moot if we can’t figure out how to get eligible voters registered in the first place.
You’d think that after the last election’s slew of technological fiascoes, states would have ironed out their database woes. Not so: Wired (via ABC News) reports that glitches in states’ voter databases are as bountiful as always, and could wind up leaving thousands disenfranchised. The biggest issue is the haphazard creation of centralized databases, which were mandated for federal elections following the debacle of 2000. The law’s intent, as usual, was to do good—consolidating voter lists into a single database would presumably simplify the process and keep voters from being arbitrarily turned away at the polls.
Unfortunately, as with voting machines, the reality has been closer to chaos: The databases, which are unregulated by any federal agency, have been plagued by human error, confusion, cost overloads, and a smörgåsbord of other mess-ups.
During the primaries earlier this year, several states found themselves in hot water with problems such as names being deleted from the voter roll, party affiliations randomly getting switched, and birth dates being changed. The end result, of course, was that would-be voters were unable to cast their ballots.
There’s also the disaster-waiting-to-happen of record matching, in which a voter’s name, social security number, etc. must all match up if he/she wants to fill out a ballot—a policy that Florida is already championing. And if a database error has mismatched names or numbers? Too bad—better luck in 2012.
Now the New York Times brings to light another glitch: As a million-plus homeowners foreclose on their mortgages, so may they also lose their right to vote. Many states require voters to provide a current address before a cutoff date of October 6. Given the turmoil of losing your house in foreclosure, few of the unfortunate have updated their information with the state’s database. The Obama camp has been rushing to ensure that these unlucky foreclosers don’t also lose their votes—a wise move, given that the majority of subprime crisis casualties are lower-income and members of minority groups, and thus far more likely to support Obama.