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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Friday, December 3
 
Georgia's Electronic Voting Machines Yield Fewer Uncounted Votes
We're still in the early stages of discovering how the changes in voting equipment have affected the number of votes counted, but there's some early evidence that Georgia's switch from paper-based to electronic voting had positive results. The A.P. reports here that, statewide, the percentage of residual votes (combined overvotes and undervotes) declined from about 3.5% to 0.39%. Georgia used a hodgepodge of voting equipment -- including punch cards, optical scans, and paper ballots -- in 2000 but switched to electronic voting technlogy statewide in 2004. The biggest increase in the percentage of votes counted occurred in African-American precincts:
An analysis of results from precincts where more than 80 percent of registered voters are black showed even more dramatic drops. In 77 of those precincts studied by the Secretary of State's office, the percentage of so-called "undervotes" in the 2000 presidential election was 6.7 percent - almost twice the state average. This year, that percentage dropped to 0.69 percent.
In other words, heavily black precincts saw the percentage of uncounted votes drop to about one-tenth of what it had been in 2004.

My take: This is good news for Georgians. These numbers suggest that the state is reaching the upper limit of what it's possible to accomplish through voting technology. Analyzing surveys from past presidential elections, Stephen Knack and Martha Kropf have found that about 0.3 to 0.7% of voters intentionally undervote in presidential elections -- that is, they deliberately leave the presidential line blank. These numbers are approaching that threshhold. That suggests that almost all of the remaining undervotes are probably intentional.

Georgia's numbers are also consistent with prior research finding that switching from punch cards to electronic voting systems dramatically lowers the percentage of uncounted votes, particularly in minority precincts. For research on the effect of moving away from punch cards, see this page containing research by Henry Brady at U.C. Berkeley. For an analysis of how switching to electronic voting lowers the racial gap in uncounted votes, see this paper by Michael Tomz and Robert Van Houweling.

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