Saturday, May 22, 2004

Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes

by Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times, May 23, 2004


A coalition of computer scientists, voter groups and state officials, led by California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is trying to force the makers of electronic voting machines to equip those machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.


Mr. Shelley said he was requiring counties to allow voters to vote on paper if they wanted to, even if there were no apparent problems with the touch screens. "It's a voter-confidence issue," he said in an interview. "It should be a no-brainer."

More than a dozen other states are considering legislation to require paper backups, and Congress, which had left the matter on the back burner, is considering several similar proposals.

"People are demanding this," said Representative Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who has introduced a bill to require that by November, all voters be able to cast ballots that they can verify. This would entail either retrofitting touch screens with printers or requiring a county to go back to a paper-based system like optical-scan equipment or even punch cards.


"The Maryland primary was a very instructive learning experience for all activists," said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, a grass-roots watchdog group in Sacramento that is helping to organize voter groups across the country.

"There are movements in a lot of states, and we're sharing information," she said. She said she took it as a mark of success that 75 percent of the voting jurisdictions in the country will be using the same equipment in November as they used in 2000.

"I'd rather have voters vote on punch cards than on an electronic system that can't be verified," she said.

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