By Rachel Konrad, the Associated Press, June 11, 2004
The League of Women Voters' national convention is taking place this weekend. Members of the league are expected to contest the organization's failure to support the voter verified paper trail reform. Barbara Simons, a technology expert, e-voting critic, and League member, is seeking the League presidency in order to challenge the League's position.
Rachel Konrad's AP story provides more background on the organization's internal controversy.
Electronic voting is at the center of an internal battle in the League of Women Voters, whose national leadership is refusing to endorse demands by hundreds of members for a paper trail to guard against fraud, hackers and malfunctions.
Some local chapters are so angry that they are flouting regulations and planning to speak against the group's national position on Friday and Saturday at the league's convention in Washington. They are threatening to nominate new board members and a new candidate for president who would rescind the league's support for paperless voting systems.
"We think the league has in some way failed us," said Genevieve Katz, 74, a member of the Oakland, Calif., chapter, who has collected more than 700 signatures from members upset with the league's position on paperless terminals. "I can't remember an issue that has gotten members so upset."
The league, a nonpartisan group with 130,000 members, weighed in on the electronic voting controversy last year. Leaders said paperless terminals, which about 30 percent of the electorate will use in the November election, were reliable.
Founded by suffragettes, the league rarely shies from controversial subjects and has a history of vigorous internal debate.
Despite overwhelming support among members for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the league took no national stance. Outraged members demanded systemic changes, and by 1974 the league amended its bylaws to give the national organization more power to advocate social change.
For current members, Ms. Maxwell said, voter registration problems and dismal turnout, particularly among minorities, should be bigger worries than potential hackers.
"From a voting rights perspective, we care a great deal about the openness of the system and access to the system, that everyone eligible be able to participate freely," Ms. Maxwell said. "But simply printing out a piece of paper will not, in our opinion, address all the security concerns. People are talking about a simple solution to a complicated issue."
Some say the League of Women Voters' support of paperless systems has lulled politicians into thinking the machines are reliable. E-voting critic and league member Kim Alexander called the league's support of paperless systems "a significant roadblock on the path to reform."
Marian Beddill, 68, recently resigned as second vice president for the chapter in Bellingham, Wash., because of the league's position on electronic voting.
"It was pretty severe,'' Ms. Beddill said of her action, "but I'm passionate about protecting our votes and our ability and competence in having our votes counted correctly."