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We hold in our collective memory the 2000 election fiasco in which this country was robbed of its legitimate leader because of "voting problems" (the catch-all euphemism for Republican dirty tricks).

Now the Washington Post is predicting an "Election Day Mess" in November.

Staff writer, Mary Pat Flaherty, starts her piece on expected voting problems without mincing words:

Faced with a surge in voter registrations leading up to Nov. 4, election officials across the country are bracing for long lines, equipment failures and confusion over polling procedures that could cost thousands the chance to cast a ballot.

In addition to human generated confusion, new voting machines themselves are not expected to work properly. Now it is being said upfront that some people should expect to be disenfranchsed because of software problems.

In case we were wondering who some of the players in this new, emerging drama will be - it looks like some of our old friends are involved. In this priceless quote, Diebold (notice the name change) pretty much tells us to expect to have our election undermined again:

Premier Election Solutions, the company that makes many of the nation's voting machines, last month acknowledged that software used in 34 states, including Virginia and Maryland, could cause votes to be dropped. The company, formerly called Diebold, 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

They have no fix for the problem? That is unacceptable.

One especially troubling piece of the expected voting problem involves rigid requirements for names to match those on the computer-generated form in order for a person to be allowed to vote.

States have taken a variety of positions on what should be considered a match when it comes to nicknames, hyphenated names and married names. If the information doesn't match, voters can cast provisional ballots, but whether those will count in final tallies depends on local rules, which vary widely.

"If you have small glitches multiplied by thousands of voters, that means big problems that cost eligible voters their voice," said Daniel P. Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. The problems could be more acute with hyphenated Hispanic names or transposed Asian surnames, he said, "leaving certain groups disproportionately affected."

Care to guess who these "certain groups" are?

This article strikes me as a trial balloon and a warning. How the public reacts to this information could have a real impact on how seriously counties take their responsability to ensure that voting is efficient and fair.

So far, many counties are not stepping up.

...David Moon, program director for FairVote, a voting advocacy group that is surveying local operations, said that "very few county officials" in swing states "are creating rational plans" to put machines where they are most needed. As a result, he said, frustrated voters stuck in long lines could give up and go home without casting ballots -- the same thing that happened four years ago in many states.

It is not acceptable to say, "it's just going to be a mess, so get used to it."

How can activists draw more attention to this outragious situation and demand that their county officials be accountable? Can people in swing states send copies of this article to their county officials and ask what the plan is?

Are people doing voter registration aware that names may have to match exactly?

The Washington Post article is long, but well worth reading. I was left wondering whether the average person reading it would come away thinking, "why bother to vote - it won't be counted anyway." I was left feeling angry and ready to fight.

This can not be allowed to happen again. Ideas?

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Originally posted to your neighbor on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:51 AM PDT.

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