Commentary: 'Silly season' and voting machines

It is called by many the "silly season," that tail-end time in election campaigns when voters are bombarded with advertising that is in some cases perfectly responsible and in others preposterous. Then there are the claims and counterclaims by political parties snapping at each other. The 2010 cycle has been no different.

Consider the contentions by state Republican officials regarding the electronic "touch" voting machines used in some counties for early voting and in others (23 to be precise) on Election Day itself.

The state GOP in recent days has claimed the machines are flawed, and that when there is an error a machine will "default" to Democrats. A lawsuit was filed, though elections officials claimed with good reason that any problems generally result from human error. A brief demonstration at the State Board of Elections office in Raleigh might have cleared things up.

No machine system is perfect (in this case, for example, one was flummoxed by hand lotion). But there are a multitude of safety features on these that allow a voter to change his or her mind, and there is a confidential paper ballot created by electronic voting which is clearly visible to the voter and kept under lock and key for 22 months. The machines work fine, and they're not partisan. Errors are extremely rare. Perhaps the GOP didn't want to clear things up at all. One of the hallmarks of silly season, after all, is to get in a few shots close to Election Day.

Then there's the diversionary issue of whether voters should have to present a picture identification when they vote, which is not now required in North Carolina. Those who object to such a requirement say it could be interpreted as an attempt to exclude some voters. Proponents say that having such a system would prevent voter fraud, including voting by those who are not American citizens.

Here again, the "problem" is woefully exaggerated. There are very few instances these days of voter fraud, nationwide. And in North Carolina, voter rolls are cross-checked regularly against driver's licenses to ensure against fraud. County elections officials are notified if a discrepancy is found and those voters are stripped from the rolls. As to claims that the system allows for the recording of votes by people who are deceased, in practice that kind of fraud does not occur enough to be a significant issue, if it occurs at all. If someone does violate the law, it is considered a Class I felony, which can bring a prison sentence.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.newsobserver.com.