Help America Vote Needs A Second Act

by James William Smith - Date: 2008-10-29 - Word Count: 731 Share This!

Presidential Election Day 2008 in America is destined to be a day filled with controversy, long voter lines at the polls, and faulty electronic voting equipment.

The company (Premier Election Solutions) that makes many of the nation's electronic voting machines has already acknowledged that software used in 34 states, including Virginia and Maryland, could cause votes to be dropped.

The company said it has no fix for the problem now, but election officials can catch the errors and recover the votes through a routine process of double-checking electronic memory cards. If this software glitch in electronic voting equipment was not bad enough, the implementation of the Help America Vote Act will certainly add to Election Day confusion.

In fact, for more than half of the states, this will be the first presidential election that will use statewide databases required by the 2002 law to improve the accuracy of voter rolls. So, when voters arrive at the polls to fulfill their civic duty, their information must match the information on the state voters list in order for them to receive a regular ballot and vote.

The truth is that voter chaos at the polling booth on Election Day would be a proper end to a year filled with election process controversy. Consider that the 2008 primary election campaign began with the spectacle of two American states trying to protect their "right" to vote first.

As a result, Iowa held its caucuses two days after New Year's Day with New Hampshire voting just five days after that. For a time it looked like voting would actually start in December. It is not hard to imagine that in 2012, without a change in the process, it just might.

In addition, the states of Michigan and Florida changed their scheduled election dates and moved their primaries into January. The delegates of the two states were stripped until the convention by a committee of the Democratic National Party. That delegate penalty was an attempt to try and control the chaos of the entire 2008 Presidential primary process.

It is clear that there needs to be a reform of the entire state primary voting process before the next Presidential Election in 2012. To provide equity in Presidential voting for each American state, the Congress should reform the primary process by providing for rotating regional primaries.

However, the primary election schedule was not the only problem in the 2008 Presidential Election. A dramatic increase in early presidential voting needs better control and oversight.

In the Presidential election of 2000, an estimated 12.7 million people, roughly 12 percent of voters, cast their ballots early. In 2004, that number doubled to about 25 million, or about 20 percent of 122 million total voters. This year as many as one third of voters, or around 40 million people, were expected to vote well before Election Day.

Also, consider that the percentage of early voting in several battleground states in 2008 is expected to exceed fifty percent of the vote. New Mexico, Washington State, Nevada, and Oregon will likely see a majority of voters cast their ballots before Election Day.

Of course, it is understandable that members of the military and disabled citizens who have a valid excuse, be allowed to cast an absentee ballot prior to Election Day. The problem is that the number of states offering no-excuse, in-person, early voting is on the rise.

In 1996, just eleven states offered it. In 2004, that number rose to twenty six. This year, with the addition of Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and the all-important state of Ohio, voters in thirty two states no longer need to provide a reason in order to vote well before Election Day.

A reason often cited for early voting is an increase in overall voter turnout. However, there is not a single study that shows that the increase in early voting increases overall voter turnout. Meanwhile, early voting increases the risk of election fraud and frustrates the imperative for our democracy to be based on an informed electorate.

The United States Congress needs to pass a second "Help America Vote Act" to outline the rules of Presidential voting before the next election cycle begins. This reform is needed to prevent the chaos of current state primary voting. Its also necessary to insure the integrity of the early voting process so that the next President of the United States is not elected by an uninformed electorate months before Election Day.

Related Tags: congress, politics, election 2008, early voting, primary voting, help american vote act

James William Smith has worked in Senior management positions for some of the largest Financial Services firms in the United States for the last twenty five years. He has also provided business consulting support for insurance organizations and start up businesses. Visit his website at or his daily blog at

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