Last updated on: 5/19/2008 | Author:

Did Electronic Voting Machines in the 2000 and 2004 Elections Give an Advantage to a Particular Political Party?

PRO (yes)


Ellen Theisen, CEO of the Vote-PAD Company, explained in her 2005 report “Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections”:

“A ‘default’ selection is a selection automatically pre-set by the software. It remains selected unless the user specifically chooses to change it. To provide a default selection on a DRE voting machine is to give a voter a ballot with a candidate already marked.

Yet, election officials in Austin set up the eSlate [a model of electronic voting machine made by Hart InterCivic] DREs with Bush/Cheney as the default choice for president/vice-president. Voters who voted straight party Democratic ticket watched their presidential votes changed to Bush on the review screen.”



David Card, PhD, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley; and Enrico Moretti, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, stated in their Feb. 2006 paper published in Review of Economics and Statistics titled “Does Voting Technology Affect Outcomes? Touch-screen Voting and the 2004 Presidential Election”:

“Across all counties in the U.S., the gain in the Republican share of the two-party vote between 2000 and 2004 was larger in counties that used touch-screen voting in 2004 than in other counties. The gain was 3.2 percentage points (standard error = 0.2) in DRE counties versus 1.8 percentage points (standard error = 0.7) in non-DRE counties. This implies a ‘DRE effect’ equal to 1.4 percentage points, large enough to affect the final outcome of the election…

[This finding] is consistent with concerns raised by some Democrats that the adoption of touch-screen voting helps Republicans. This interpretation is particularly troublesome because the magnitude of the estimated coefficient is large enough to have influenced the final result in several swing states, potentially altering the final outcome of the election.”

Feb. 2006


Michael Hout, PhD, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, released a 2004 working paper titled “The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections,” (available on the Verified Voting Foundation website) which stated:

“Electronic voting raised President Bush’s advantage from the tiny edge he held in 2000 to a clearer margin of victory in 2004. The impact of e-voting was not uniform, however. Its impact was proportional to the Democratic support in the county, i.e., it was especially large in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade. The evidence for this is the statistical significance of terms in our model that gauge the average impact of e-voting across Florida’s 67 counties with statistical interaction effects that gauge its larger-than-average effect in counties where Vice President Gore did the best in 2000 and slightly negative effect in the counties where Mr. Bush did the best in 2000. The state-wide impact of these disparities due to electronic voting amount to 130,000 votes if we assume a ‘ghost vote’ mechanism and twice that – 260,000 votes if we assume that a vote misattributed to one candidate should have been counted for the other.”



Davi Ottenheimer, MSc, Former Vice President of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), in a June 30, 2005 “Schneier on Security Blog” comment, wrote:

“I’d love to imagine that voting systems are built and managed in some independent and honest vacuum, but this is the land of opportunity. Besides that, treating voting systems as non-partisan would require overlooking that fact that the technology is deeply mired in very partisan affairs. Walden O’Dell, the Diebold Inc. CEO, was an avid Bush benefactor and even ran fund-raisers at his mansion asking for $10K donations to benefit the Ohio Republican Party’s federal campaign fund.

More to the point, these funds supported Blackwell, the Republican Secretary of State who just also happened to be in charge of selecting Diebold as the official voting machine. So after Diebold successfully lobbied Blackwell, Blackwell tried to use his sole control of $106 million in federal funds to force counties in Ohio to buy the Diebold voting systems against their wishes and without open vaildation of the new systems… Hope that helps clarify why there should be a great deal of uncertainty about the validity of these systems, especially with regard to their partisan origins.”

June 30, 2005


Robert F. Kennedy Jr., JD, Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and President of Waterkeeper Alliance, in a June 1, 2006 Rolling Stone article titled “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?,” wrote:

“What is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I’ve become convinced that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election…

[E]vidence suggests that Republicans tampered with the software used to tabulate votes. Two weeks before the election, an employee of ES&S, the company that manufactures the machines, was observed by a local election official making an unauthorized log-in to the central computer used to compile election results… For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks… If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system.”

June 1, 2006

CON (no)


Herb Deutsch, Product Development Manager for electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES&S), stated in his Sep. 21, 2004 paper “Requirements for Voting System Security”:

“Many people equate the use of their computer at home and in the office to the use of voting machines in the polling place and that voting machines contain a program that is downloaded onto each machines for each election… The programs used in tabulation and voting equipment are not election specific. They are unit specific and, as part of the Independent Test Authority (ITA) certification testing by an approved ITA, have their source code reviewed…

The program or firmware does not have any special recognition of any one voting position over another or know in advance what party or candidate the voting position will be used for. All knowledge and association is derived from the election definition tables or data structures that are contained in the memory device whether downloaded to unit or directly used by it. Therefore the idea that the certified program can favor one candidate over another is not palatable.”

Sep. 21, 2004


Cindy Cohn, JD, Legal Director and General Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), explained in her July 16, 2004 article “Ensuring Election Integrity Is Not A Partisan Issue” (available on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) website):

“Over the past week we’ve seen several media stories suggesting that the electronic voting machine issue is partisan. While there are certainly folks who would like to portray it that way, including Jeb Bush and unfortunately last week, The Washington Post, it’s not true. Far more importantly, it’s not true in terms of who should care.

In a recent court case, EFF presented evidence of 18 serious direct recording electronic (DRE) problems over the past two years, and in the majority of the cases that we’ve seen, electronic voting systems don’t fail in any partisan way – they just fail. And given the many ways that they can be cracked, no political party has a ‘lock’ on programmers who could sway an election.”

July 16, 2004


Bruce McCullough, PhD, Professor of Decision Sciences and Economics at Drexel University, and Florenz Plassman, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics at Binghamton University explained in their Dec. 2, 2004 paper “A Partial Critique of Hout, Mangels, Carlson and Best’s ‘The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support of Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections,'” written in direct response to the Hout et al. working paper referenced in the title:

“The recent working paper by Hout, Mangels, Carlson and Best (‘HMCB’) concludes that ‘electronic voting raised President Bush’s advantage from the tiny edge he held in 2000 to a clearer margin of victory in 2004.’… We conclude that the [HMCB] study is entirely without merit and its ‘results’ are meaningless…

HMCB’s concept of ‘excess votes’ is empirically meaningless, they did not uncover statistical irregularities associated with the electronic voting machines used in Florida. We have shown that HMCB were not modelling increases for support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004, but instead were only modelling support for Bush in 2004. Therefore, there can be no evidence that counties with electronic voting machines were significantly likely to show increases in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004… In their summary, HMCB claim that ‘We can be 99.9% sure that these effects are not attributable to chance.’ We respectfully disagree: we are 99.99% sure that HMCB’s paper constitutes no evidence that there was anything amiss with the electronic voting in Florida.”

Dec. 2, 2004


The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project released a report on Nov. 11, 2004 titled “Voting Machines and the Underestimate of the Bush Vote,” which stated:

“Ever since election night, supporters of John Kerry – or at least, opponents of electronic voting machines – have come close to implying that the election was stolen by the manipulation of paperless voting systems, particularly the new electronic voting machines…

The initial alarms that were struck on Election Day and immediately thereafter were based on hasty analysis using exit polls that were not designed to predict the outcome of the election… If we do a statistical test to see whether the differences between the exit polls and the official returns are significant, only three out of 51 are…

There is no evidence that electronic voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election for George Bush. The ‘facts’ that are being circulated on the Internet appear to be selectively chosen to make the point. Much of that analysis appears to rest on early exit poll results, which were bound to be highly volatile, given the nature of exit poll methodology.”

Nov. 10, 2004


Richard L. Hasen, PhD, William H. Hannon Distinguished Professor of Law Chair at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, in a Nov. 11, 2006 New York Times opinion article titled “Keeping the Voting Clean,” wrote:

“As election mishaps hindered voting on Tuesday [Nov. 7, 2006 U.S. Congressional elections] from Cleveland to Denver some people were already calling for giving up on the new electronic voting machines… But this reaction to the bugs and glitches shows that Americans have not learned the right lesson from 2000: the problem is not with the technology of running our elections but rather with the people running them.”

Nov. 11, 2006