News You Can Use: How to Make Your Vote Count

ByABC News
November 5, 2006, 7:17 PM

Nov. 6, 2006 — -- Tuesday is Election Day and the stakes could not be higher for a midterm contest: Control of both the House and Senate is up for grabs and could come down to a handful of close elections in a number of key states.

New laws and new voting machines are in place, designed to make the voting process more efficient. But adjusting to so much change in such a competitive political season could also make this one of the most confusing and chaotic Election Days on record.

"There's a massive amount of change in a highly competitive political environment," says Doug Chapin, head of the non-partisan election reform Web site "We're in an election where a tiny number of votes can make a big difference, and we're making sweeping changes. Put the two together and there's bound to be some confusion."

Why is this midterm election so important?

If the House changes hands it will be the first time Democrats have the majority there in over a decade, since Republicans won control in 1994. A change in the balance of power in Washington could recast, and potentially rewrite U.S. policy on the war in Iraq, the war on terror and a range of domestic issues.

Inspired by hanging chads, butterfly ballots and other snafus of the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. It called for sweeping changes in our election system, including new voting technology, protections against voter fraud and accessible voting for the disabled.

Millions of Americans will feel the effects of that legislation for the first time this Tuesday. Twenty-six states now ask voters to present some form of ID. According to Election Data Services, 39 percent of voters will be using electronic touch-screen systems, many of them for the first time. That's up from just 12.5 percent of voters who used electronic systems in November 2000.

The vast majority of Americans will have no trouble casting their ballots, other than the annoyance of waiting in line at the polls. But there will inevitably be some problems. With millions of registered voters nationwide, it would be big news if there weren't some incidents of machine malfunction and human error.