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California Primary Tests Electronic Voting System

The use of electronic voting machines in the California primary last week served as a test case for the rest of the country. Many states have switched to the touch-screen machines after the problems with voting systems in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

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  • SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Kim Alexander is looking for trouble…

  • KIM ALEXANDER, The California Voter Foundation:

    Are you the polling inspector?

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    … at the polling place.

  • KIM ALEXANDER:

    Hi, I'm Kim Alexander.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    As director of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation, she spent Primary Election Day trying to find out how well new touch-screen electronic voting machines were working.

  • KIM ALEXANDER:

    And what do you think about using the touch-screen voting machines?

  • VOTER:

    I think it's wonderful myself.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    While some voters told her they liked them, Alexander was dismayed by security problems she found.

  • KIM ALEXANDER:

    The other polling place I went to had a little sticker there.

  • POLLING PLACE WORKER:

    Yes, one of my workers pulled them off. I had it written it down.

  • KIM ALEXANDER:

    Oh, how come they pulled it off?

  • POLLING PLACE WORKER:

    They didn't know which one they were talking off. It looks like they got the wrong sticker.

  • KIM ALEXANDER:

    Oh, which sticker were they supposed to take off?

    At this polling place here this morning, they had trouble getting the machines started, and one poll worker told me that they had an anxiety attack and they started tearing all the seals off all of the machines. And three out of the four machines in this polling place do not have those security seals on them right now.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Those security seals are designed to prevent tampering by anyone, and that's a concern now that much of the country has switched to electronic voting machines.

    The switch was made in response to problems voters had with punch-card voting systems in the disputed and protracted 2000 Florida presidential election. Two years later, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act and appropriated $3.8 billion to buy new voting machines and to otherwise improve elections.

  • KIM ALEXANDER:

    A lot of states rushed out and bought new electronic-voting machines thinking that that would solve all of their problems. What we found is that those systems are not only more expensive than paper-voting systems, they're also less transparent and they're hardly glitch-free.

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