11/19/04 — Confidence wanes: Problems with election equipment are disturbing

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Confidence wanes: Problems with election equipment are disturbing

There is speculation that a statewide election may have to be repeated to determine who will be North Carolina’s commissioner of agriculture. This would be triggered by an electronic voting machine foul-up in Carteret County.

Elections officials have found that 4,438 ballots were not recorded because a computer tallying the votes became “full.”

Republican Steve Troxler at present appears to be leading Democrat Britt Cobb by fewer than 3,000 votes statewide and that race is getting close attention.

However, Republicans George W. Bush and Richard Burr had substantial margins of victory in Carteret County.

An intriguing aspect of the matter is why a statewide re-election should be necessary because of a problem in one county.

A statewide vote would cost around $3 million, according to one news report. That probably wouldn’t include what it might cost the candidates in campaign outlays.

It would seem a new vote in Carteret County alone would be sufficient.

And if the problem was in the voting machine, the manufacturer — in this case California-based Unilect Corp. — should bear the cost. The company president attributed the problem to a mistake of omission by a computer engineer. But it also is argued by the company that a warning light should have alerted elections officials on the scene of the problem.

That notwithstanding, there also is a question of whether the county elections officials were sufficiently instructed by the manufacturer in order to avoid what has taken place.

In light of what happened in Florida four years ago and what is taking place in our own state now, voting equipment manufacturers and some elections officials have dealt a disturbing blow to public confidence in our voting systems.

Published in Editorials on November 19, 2004 11:15 AM