US Officials: Early voting could improve e-voting

Going to the polls before Election Day helps identify problems early

In other states, "the lines on Election Day were shorter than they thought they would be" because so many ballots had already been cast, he said. That was in contrast to states like New York, Pennsylvania and Missouri, which don't use early voting and suffered from long lines on Tuesday.

Gronke noted that early voting wasn't a complete panacea for states such as Ohio and Florida, which still had some reports of long lines. "Why didn't early voting allow them to manage better on Election Day?" he asked. "There are things you just can't plan for."

One reason the overall balloting appears to have gone relatively smoothly across the nation, Gronke said, is that "it wasn't that close" of an election in the presidential race.

"The warts still may be there [with the e-voting system], but we just may not be looking at them," he said.

Early voting, however, appears to be an important way to help improve the e-voting process, he said. "I think we're going to see some moves toward expanding early voting by 2012 [across the nation], particularly federal legislation. Hopefully, we can pull together some expertise to examine this."

Gronke has one warning, however. The rush to fix the nation's voting systems was like a tsunami after the 2000 presidential election, highlighted by that year's controversial punch card ballot problems in Florida and a US Supreme Court ruling that eventually decided the election.

Those reverberations are still being felt.

"In 2000, the need for reform in the voting systems meant moving fast and wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on new technologies," Gronke said. "That has slowed down since 2004, with more examination by the press and e-voting experts. I hope that continues on this [early voting] issue as well, so that no mistakes are made."

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