After the 2000 election, there was broad consensus among administrators, voting rights advocates, elected officials, and elections scholars that the country needs more voter education. This includes not only education about the candidates and the issues, but information on how to register, how to cast a ballot, provisional balloting, and how to use the voting system machinery. Voters need education, too, on their voting rights under the law (especially the disabled and minority language voters). As the National Commission on Federal Election Reform Report noted, “Some administrators believe, with cause, that they can get more improvements, dollar for dollar, from voter education and poll worker training than they can from investments in new equipment.” The Democratic Caucus Special Committee on Election Reform report also urged increased voter education efforts, especially targeted to new voters. The Caltech/MIT report supports increased voter education, including the publication of sample ballots and establishment of instructional areas at polling places to reduce the number of lost votes. Other organizations that called for additional voter education included the League of Women Voters, the Constitution Project, and the NAACP
There is much evidence to suggest that giving voters proper instructions, through education and well-trained poll workers, is one of the most effective ways to protect the integrity of the vote. As an analyst for the Florida Division of Elections said, “‘Human error is the biggest threat to the integrity of any voting system. Even with your crudest systems, if the human does everything they’re supposed to, that system will work.’”
This conclusion is demonstrated by the reports we commissioned. For example, Los Angeles still uses the punch card ballot system, just like Florida. Yet at the same time, Los Angeles invests a great deal in a comprehensive voter education process—it is one of the best in the country. Moreover, it stepped up its voter education activities even more for the 2001 election, undertaking a public campaign called “Got Chad?” As a result, Los Angeles’ record of lost votes was much better than Florida’s and many other states that used punch card machines in 2000.
Miami also used punch card ballots again in its mayoral election in 2001. In the 2001 primary, however, in addition to regular poll workers, each polling site had a “tutor” to demonstrate how to use the punch card machine properly. The residual ballot rate was greatly improved over 2000. Then, in the runoff, every poll worker was also given a script to read to voters telling them they could not vote for more than one candidate and reminding them to check their ballots for hanging chads. Citywide, only 1.28 percent of ballots were discarded because of overvoting or undervoting. In the five precincts with the highest number of uncounted ballots in the primary election, where spoilage rates had been between 9 percent and 15 percent, in 2000, the rates plummeted to between 0.29 percent and 2.7 percent. . . .
In light of what transpired during the 2001 elections, it will certainly be interesting to observe how the country fares in the elections of 2002 and 2004. Except perhaps among activists involved in the issue, there seems to have been quite a lull in public interest or worry about the topic of election reform, especially with the advent of the nation’s war on terrorism. Perhaps that is the reason why the jurisdictions that performed relatively well on Election Day 2001 were ones that already had progressive systems in place and had made some further improvements immediately after the 2000 election, such as Los Angeles and Virginia. Jurisdictions such as New York City and New Jersey, operating with somewhat retrograde systems to begin with and stymied by both politics and budget shortfalls— especially after September 11—continue to be at a distinct disadvantage. Numerous other states and cities throughout the country find themselves in a position similar to that of New York City and New Jersey: they had faulty systems prior to the election of 2000, and then after that election made it clear how severe the problems were, they lacked the political wherewithal and/or the funding to take any strong measures to fix the problems.
(Ronald Hayduk, The 2001 Elections in New York City [pdf 348 KB]. A Century Foundation Report for The National Commission on Federal Election Reform. xviii-xxi,emphasis added.)