Contrary to Popular Belief…

The 2004 national elections were the most accurate of modern times with nearly 99 percent of all ballots cast registering a vote for president, according to a new study by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The panel _ created by Congress to correct the electoral shortcomings uncovered in Florida five years ago _ reported Tuesday that 1,160,985 ballots cast Nov. 2 did not tally a presidential vote, about 1.02 percent of all eligible ballots.

“This will assist us in making certain that every vote is counted fairly and accurately,” said Commission Chairwoman Gracia Hillman.

The finding marks a considerable improvement over the 2000 elections, when at least 1.6 million ballots, or about 2 percent of the vote, didn’t register for president, according to a Scripps Howard News Service study of that election.

In both elections, voters were least likely to successfully cast a presidential vote if they used punch-card ballots, which drew legal controversy in Florida. Congress provided $2.2 billion for the purchase of newer voting machines like optically scanned balloting or electronic voting machines.

The commission found that 1.6 percent of the more than 10 million punch-card ballots used last year failed to register a presidential vote, compared to 0.9 percent of the 27 million votes cast electronically and 1.1 percent of the nearly 50 million optically scanned ballots.

The commission also found that voters in economically disadvantaged precincts were significantly more likely to cast ballots not counted for president than were voters in affluent neighborhoods. About 2.41 percent of ballots did not count from areas where the median household income is less than $25,000 a year, compared to 0.78 from neighborhoods with median incomes greater than $50,000 a year.

The worst statewide average was in New Mexico, where 2.6 percent of ballots failed to register. However, the commission could not obtain complete election data from South Carolina and Pennsylvania to determine how many ballots failed to count in those states.

The panel also gathered data on provisional balloting, a reform mandated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 allowing voters to receive a ballot even if there were questions about their registration or correct polling location. The commission reported that 1.9 million provisional ballots were cast and 1.2 million were counted.

Reliance upon provisional ballots varied dramatically around the nation. Californians cast more than 668,400 provisional ballots, and counted 73 percent of them. New Yorkers cast 243,450 provisional ballots, but only 40 percent of them were counted.

(Contact Thomas Hargrove at HargroveT(at)