Voting machines that recently failed pre-election accuracy tests in Michigan are at the center of a disputed U.S. Senate race in Minnesota that hangs in the balance over fewer than 500 votes at press time.
Two-thirds of voters will mark their choice with a pencil on a paper ballot that is counted by an optical scanning machine, a method considered far more reliable and verifiable than touch screens. But paper ballots bring their own potential problems, voting experts say.
The scanners can break down, leading to delays and confusion for poll workers and voters. And the paper ballots of about a third of all voters will be counted not at the polling place but later at a central county location. That means that if a voter has made an error — not filling in an oval properly, for example, a mistake often made by the kind of novice voters who will be flocking to the polls — it will not be caught until it is too late. As a result, those ballots will be disqualified.