PHILADELPHIA -- Unresolved problems from the 2004 and 2006 elections could affect the outcome of next year's presidential balloting and other contests, according to the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.
A new Fels report presents a series of reforms to fix problems American voters complained about in the two most recent election years.
"MyVote1 National Election Report: Voice of the Electorate 2006" is a summary of information gathered from thousands of calls into a national election hotline on and around Election Day 2006.
The largest number of voter complaints regarded registration. Many citizens did not know whether they were registered, and if so, where they were registered. Others believed they were registered but were told by poll workers that they were not. The largest number of callers to the hotline did not express complaints, but rather sought their poll location.
The report identifies, quantifies and localizes other problems affecting voters, including complaints related to voting machines, inadequate local election board help lines and late absentee ballots.
"Voters continue to experience really basic problems," Christopher Patusky, principal investigator for the MyVote1 project, said. "They can't find their polling places, and they have difficulty registering to vote. Voting machines themselves pose growing challenges."
"We know what the problems are. The good news is that they can be fixed with attention. The bad news is that they can influence the outcomes of elections if they are not fixed."
The report presents evidence-based solutions and reforms, requiring states and/or local governments to:
* Provide hotlines and websites that allow voters to find their polling places based on their residential addresses.
* Implement hotline and Web-based systems that give citizens access to their registration status. Inexpensive technology is available that can do this, and there doesn't appear to be any reasonable basis for opposing this fix.
* Improve tests of voting machines and training of poll workers on the use of new equipment and on educating the public about voting equipment, new and old.
* Ensure that county-board help lines will meet demand during each election cycle. Telecommunications technology is available that can automatically route callers to specific offices prepared to respond to particular types of questions or complaints.
* Implement an absentee-ballot tracker system that gives voters access to the status of their absentee-ballot requests via a hotline and website in the same way that delivery companies and website businesses track packages and orders.
The full report, "MyVote1 National Election Report: Voice of the Electorate 2006," is available at www.fels.upenn.edu/publications.htm.
The project was sponsored by a bipartisan coalition that included Penn, the Reform Institute, Common Cause, We Care America, the Service Employees International Union, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and InfoVoter Technologies.