There's an old saying in Alabama and a few other neighboring states -- "thank God for Mississippi" -- that serves to remind people that as bad as things might be in their own state, they're worse somewhere else.
It might be hard to believe that when it comes to voting machines, any state could look more dysfunctional than New York. But New Jersey is giving New York some pretty darn good competition: it's starting to look as though, for yet another general election, voters in New Jersey will be using one of the worst voting systems in the country, without any paper trail to independently verify their votes.
New Jersey passed a law requiring voter verified paper records in 2005. We learn today that after failing to meet previous deadlines, the Attorney General is now asking for another extension, meaning voters in New Jersey will continue to vote on unverifiable electronic machines in November 2008.
We're all for rigorous testing of voting machines and printers. It would be foolish to buy printers that are likely to fail. But it's hard not to ask, what are they thinking in New Jersey? Why would they even contemplate buying printers that have failed testing before (see list of failures here), for a voting system that is so lousy to begin with?
With a looming budget crisis, New Jersey is looking to spend $20 million dollars on printers that have never been used anywhere else, for full-face DREs, which are the worst type of voting system in the country. Professor Kimball of the University of Missouri has shown that the layout of the full-face DREs they use in New Jersey is so confusing that it may result in as many as 20-25% of voters accidentally missing state ballot initiatives. There are also troubling news reports from the February 5 primary that indicate these same machines were providing inaccurate voter totals.
In the end, almost all New York counties rejected confusing, error-prone full-face DREs and instead purchased optical scan machines. It is hard not to ask, what is wrong with New Jersey that it would insist on investing $20 million on questionable printers for questionable machines that virtually every county in New York, and every state in the nation, has rejected?