Other disputes have arisen, as well:
•In Florida, a new “no match, no vote” law invalidates voters’ registration if certain identification criteria – such as Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers – don’t match with other state databases. Advocates say it ensures the identity of voters; critics say thousands of eligible voters may be disenfranchised due to typos and errors in data entry.
•In Ohio, the GOP challenged a new law that allows early voting within the voter-registration window, arguing that allowing someone to register and vote on the same day is counter to state law.
•In Montgomery County, Va., an official was questioned about statements that seemed to dissuade students from registering in Virginia, implying they might lose tax benefits or scholarship eligibility.
To some extent, such challenges and disputes are now a standard part of elections. But concerns have escalated this year because of high numbers of first-time registrants, expectations for high turnout, and tight races in numerous states.
Moreover, the Help America Vote Act, passed in part to address concerns after the 2000 Florida debacle, requires states to have statewide voter databases, which some are only now getting in place.
“At the same time the system is under stress, it’s also changing quite a bit,” says Doug Chapin of electionline.org, a project of the Pew Center on the States. On Election Day, Mr. Chapin says, he’ll be watching Florida, Ohio, and Colorado, swing states where disputes are already brewing. In Florida, many counties have new voting equipment along with the “no match, no vote” law, and in Ohio, concerns abound about absentee balloting, long lines, and techniques being used to get voters off the rolls. Colorado, among the last to get its database working, had problems in 2006 with its database and with new voting centers open to voters from any precinct.