Voter turnout is expected to soar in the U.S. presidential election in
November, following record participation in several primaries earlier
this year. Experts say the flood of new voters may strain polling
stations, creating added pressure especially in states that are
introducing new voting technology. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report
Scores of new voters are expected to cast ballots in
this year's presidential election, and some will be new U.S. citizens
voting for the first time. Community groups and political party workers
flocked to a recent inauguration ceremonies in Miami to register newly
eligible voters. Republican and Democratic party leaders are eager to
expand their party rolls ahead of what is expected to be a tight
In Miami, the pace of voter registration
is up over past years, and some groups say they have reached their
registration goals well ahead of the November ballot.
Carlos Pereira of the Immigrant Orientation Center says the election is drawing keen interest from Hispanic voters.
says voter registration is the issue of the moment for Hispanics. He
says there is long-running pressure to try to resolve key issues like
immigration reform and to improve the economy.
in this year's presidential primary votes showed a big jump over
previous ballots. Primary numbers doubled in Florida, as well as Iowa,
Virginia, Arizona and other key states over 2004. The surge is likely
to continue in the November general election.
Kevin Wagner, a
political scientist at Florida Atlantic University, says election
officials should be preparing for a big turnout. He says the added
numbers may pose challenges for election officials preparing for early
voting periods and the day of the election.
"We are likely to get some
new voters here. Do they vote early? Do they know how to vote early?
That may lead to issues with voting machines themselves because you are
going to have a good number of voters unfamiliar with all the
technologies," he said.
Election officials in Florida already
are on the lookout for potential trouble caused by new voting
technology. This year, Florida and several other states are replacing
touch screen computer machines that were only introduced in recent
years. A new state law requires voters to use paper ballots which are
read by an optical scanner and stored in case of a recount.
lawmakers decided to replace the touch screens after security experts
warned that computer hackers could penetrate the machines and alter
votes. Many touch screens had no paper trail of the votes cast -
raising additional fears of potential tampering.
officials are hoping the new optical scan machines will diminish those
fears. But that does not mean mistakes will not occur, such as
penciling in the correct circle, or bubble, on the paper ballots. "But
does that mean we will not have errors? Will people bubble [mark] the
wrong areas? Will they not understand the bubbling? Sure and it is
going to happen," he said.
Across the nation, the number of
voters using paper ballots and an optical scanner is rising, up to 55
percent this year. At the same time, the use of touch screens is down,
to about 33 percent of voters.
Kim Brace of Election Data
Services tracks the voting systems used across the nation. He says the
increase in paper ballots creates new pressure on election officials to
make sure they have enough ballots to keep pace with the expected rise
in voters. "It is an issue and it is a rather significant issue. What
we are seeing is that the number of paper ballots needing to be printed
is going to be double what it was in 2004," he said.
shortages caused serious delays in Ohio and other communities during
the 2004 election, as well as during primaries earlier this year.
Experts say ballot supply is especially critical when there is strong
participation from non-traditional voting blocs, such as Hispanics and
In Florida, the first test of the optical scan technology comes in August, when Florida votes on local posts.