News Americas

Thursday 21 August 2014

Poll chaos as storm forces email ballot

Nick Allen Ohio

Published 07/11/2012 | 05:00

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Voting across many US states was thrown into turmoil as electors found themselves confronted by makeshift polling booths, four-hour queues, malfunctioning machines and even the prospect of having to email their ballots.

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Despite the millions spent on campaign rallies, adverts and 'robocalls', Americans found their fabled political system beset by the kind of glitches more akin to a fledgling democracy.

The problems were particularly acute in areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In New Jersey, email and fax voting was introduced as a way to allow thousands of displaced people and emergency workers away from home, to cast their ballots.

But voters complained their emails were bouncing back. Matt Blaze, a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania said such email voting made security experts "recoil in horror."

"The email voting scheme has so many ways it can fail, or that doubt can be cast on the results, that if a race somewhere in New Jersey is decided by email ballots ... we're going to have a bunch of mini-2000-in-Floridas," he added, in reference to the controversy that engulfed Florida following the 2000 presidential election.

Buckling

Penny Ventis, a law professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said computers trying to handle email votes were already buckling. "It is an understatement to describe the situation as chaotic," she said.

At a makeshift polling station in flood-hit Hoboken, New Jersey, voters queued amid rotting rubbish and rubble.

Barbara Arnwine, the executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said: "In a word, there's just one word to describe the experience in New Jersey, and that is catastrophe."

There were further chaotic scenes in New York where around 60 polling stations were relocated after Sandy.

Poll workers in Staten Island wielded torches in a tent which was unheated on one of the coldest days of the winter. Voting was delayed for half an hour while they struggled with generators. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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