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Rep. Rush Holt's VCIA Bill is Fair, Necessary and Overdue PDF  | Print |  Email
By Pam Smith, President VerifiedVoting.org   
June 11, 2007
This editorial appeared in The Spectrum and is reposted with permission of the author.

 

Since the Help America Vote Act was implemented and electronic voting machines became commonplace, there has been a growing clamor for all voting systems to provide a voter-reviewed paper ballot. The call for a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast comes from the General Accounting Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, The Commission on Federal Election Reform, countless election experts and computer scientists and most overwhelmingly from voters.

 

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., responded by introducing, "The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act," addressing widespread concern about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems by requiring that all voting systems provide a paper record and all voting systems be audited to check the accuracy of the vote count. It also provides the needed funding for these provisions. These common sense safeguards are long overdue.

 

The recent editorial, "Holt bill not fiscally fair," though well intentioned, was itself not entirely fair. Before and after the bill's introduction, Congressman Holt sought comments from state and county election officials. Rep. Holt and the presiding U.S. House Committee listened, and meticulously amended the bill to satisfy many of the concerns raised, while safeguarding the 2008 election. Thus, the amended bill, now up for a floor vote, already resolves the criticisms levied in The Spectrum & Daily News editorial.

 

The "archival" paper requirement was modified to "durable." The deadline to implement voting system improvements was split up, so states like Utah - that took the initiative to get voter-verified paper audit trails early - have until 2010 to upgrade their systems.

 

Determined not to legislate an unfunded mandate, Holt listened to election officials' concerns about costs, and a detailed analysis was performed to ensure the bill provided adequate funds for all its requirements. Its equipment budget was more than tripled, and it includes funding to pay for the cost of carrying out audits too, for Utah and every state.

 

Utah made a difficult move in changing from paper and punch-card balloting systems to new, complicated e-voting systems. Though many urged a simpler, less costly system such as optical scan with ballot-markers at the time, which would already have been compliant with HR811's requirements, at least Utah made sure the machines were not paperless. Many states did not follow Utah's lead, however, and unless this bill passes, more than 35 million votes in 2008 will be impossible to verify as accurate.

 

Our voting systems must provide a recountable, auditable paper record for each ballot cast. Congressman Holt's bill will ensure this in all states, in a reasonable and responsible manner. The sensible and necessary provisions in the bill can and must be implemented before November 2008. Abundant and growing evidence shows electronic systems can malfunction, and paperless electronic systems malfunction irretrievably. To ignore it would be to recklessly gamble with our elections.


 

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