E-voting: What will it take for a smooth election?

Tuesday's U.S. election may not be long remembered for widespread problems with voting systems, but there were at least scattered reports of problems with touch-screen or optical-scan voting machines, many compounded by record turnouts in some jurisdictions.

Amid those scattered, if not widespread, reports of problems with electronic voting, critics of e-voting machines said there's still work that can be done to improve the voting process and voting technology. And the nation's top election official said she's confident that voting systems can be improved and that elections can run more smoothly.

The U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), established by the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), hopes to start certifying electronic-voting machines next year, said Rosemary Rodriguez, chairwoman of the EAC. The EAC launched a new program to certify the integrity of e-voting machines early in 2007, and some e-voting machine vendors have complained that the commission is moving too slowly to certify machines.

Six e-voting vendors have pending applications for certification, with the earliest application in February 2007, and the EAC hasn't yet certified any of them. But Rodriguez said the EAC is taking its time to make sure its certification program is extensive and focused on the right things. "We're not going to apologize for being thorough," Rodriguez said in an interview.

There were early reports of voting machine breakdowns in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with touch-screen machines having problems in some areas and optical scan machines with problems in other areas. There were also reports of voter databases not being up-to-date in Ohio and other states.

Generally, local voting officials seem to have been prepared for large turnouts and potential problems, Rodriguez said. However, there is room for improvement, and one of the EAC's focuses next year will be on voting machine certification, she said.