A survey of possible voting glitches, coast to coast

"What if we had an election and everyone came?” is the question posed by the Pew Center on the States/Electionline.org’s gargantuan Election 2008 Preview updating election administration issues — voting technologies, provisional ballot verification rules, and the like — for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Massachusetts comes off pretty well here. The sole problem worthy of a mention was the pre-September primary snafu involving Automark machines in New Bedford, the only city to experience such problems. The city’s 40 machines, primarily used by people with disabilities, couldn’t read Republican ballots.

New Bedford election officials recalibrated the machines and had no issues during primary voting. Officials are currently working on fixing a screen on one Automark, but Election Commissioner Maria Tomasia told CommonWealth Unbound that the machines are ready for November 4.

Still, while Massachusetts isn’t quite Alabama (where voter fraud is “big business,” according to Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman in the Pew report), the feds have been slapping a few wrists around the Bay State lately.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department reached a settlement with the state over problems with ballots cast by military personnel and citizens living overseas. The department found that since 2002 Massachusetts had failed to collect and report the number of military voters and overseas residents who receive ballots, the number of ballots returned, and the number of ballots successfully cast in federal general elections.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Under the terms of the agreement, Secretary of State William Galvin must collect and report absentee ballot statistics within 90 days of the election and make the resulting report public.

Last month, the Bay State reached another agreement with the Justice Department to provide Spanish language ballots in Worcester whenever the state furnishes the city with elections materials including ballots, sample ballots and voting instructions for state and federal elections.