CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Never fear, disgruntled voters, exhausted chad watchers and bewildered judges: The scientists are coming to the rescue.
On Thursday, a day after the monthlong Florida election debacle ended, two of the nation's leading scientific institutions announced a joint effort to develop an easy, reliable and inexpensive voting system.
"To a large extent, the problem that the country has faced these last few weeks has a technological solution," said Charles Vest, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
That solution, however, isn't clear yet.
Experts from MIT and the California Institute of Technology said they would conduct a thorough examination of existing voting technology and then try to develop improvements.
"We are going to consider technology from the oldest to the newest, from paper ballots, like people used in the 19th century, to Internet voting," MIT political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere said.
The two universities are responsible for a staggering percentage of the world's cutting edge technology.
The plan began to take shape a few weeks after Election Day, when Caltech President David Baltimore called Vest to gripe about the confusion in Florida.
They agreed something had to be done, and that their schools had the resources to do it. So, they organized a team of political scientists, engineers and design experts to undertake the study.
"It is embarrassing to America when technology fails and it puts democracy to such a test as we have seen in the last month," Baltimore said Thursday from Pasadena, Calif., during a joint-video news conference with Vest.
The United States has no uniform ballot -- a fact many blame for the confusion in Florida. Some precincts have relatively sophisticated electronic machines while others use hand ballots.
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