This evening at 8:45 p.m. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger notified the California State Senate that he has signed Senate Bill 370, which requires voter verified paper audit trails to be used to verify the accuracy of software vote counts from electronic voting machines.
The enactment of SB 370 is a huge leap forward for election integrity in our state. I am deeply grateful to the governor for signing this bill despite opposition from the Secretary of State and county election officials. Many Californians -- hundreds, possibly thousands -- contacted the Governor and urged him to sign SB 370. This grassroots activism surely helped overcome opposition to the bill and win the Governor's signature. Congratulations to Senator Debra Bowen, who authored SB 370, and to the numerous organizations and activists who worked hard to achieve this victory! For more information about SB 370, see the California Voter Foundation's letter to the Governor urging his support.
The Governor's signing message is featured below, along with excerpts from Senator Bowen's news release.
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I signed Senate Bill 1438 last year, which required direct recording electronic voting machines to include an accessible, voter verified paper audit trail because I believed that it would contribute greatly to voter confidence and the integrity of the election system. I am signing Senate Bill 370 this year that allows the voter verified paper audit trail to be used for a recount and requires they be used for the 1-percent manual tally.
The Secretary of State has expressed concerns about this measure, which I share. The most notable of these concerns is raised by the disability community on whether the voter verified paper audit trail can be adequately confirmed by sight-impaired voters. I urge the legislature, the local elections officials, and other interested parties to work with the Secretary of State to perfect a comprehensive solution for electronic voting system verification. In the meantime, I am signing this measure because I believe that using the voter verified paper audit trails to audit the accuracy of overall election results will provide confidence in the accuracy and integrity of votes cast on these machines to California voters.
SACRAMENTO – “People need and deserve to know their votes have been counted accurately, and the best way to ensure that happens is to use the paper printout that the voter has already verified as being accurate and check it against the results tallied by the electronic machine.”
That’s how Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee responded to the Governor’s decision to sign SB 370 into law tonight.
“This isn’t complicated, either you care about whether the election results are accurate or you don’t,” said Bowen. “I don’t see how the Secretary of State, who led the opposition to the bill, could say with straight face that he’s for fair elections, he’s for having a paper trail on electronic voting machines, yet he’s against using that paper trail to ensure the accuracy of the vote count.”
California law requires all electronic voting machines to be equipped with an accessible voter-verified paper audit trail (AVVPAT) as of January 1, 2006. Under a separate 40-year-old California law, elections officials are required to conduct a public manual tally of the ballots cast in at least 1% of the precincts chosen at random to check the accuracy of votes tabulated by an electronic or mechanical voting system. SB 370 requires elections officials to use the AVVPAT to comply with California’s 1% manual law and to use the AVVPAT it in the event of a recount.
The California Association of Clerks & Elections Officials opposed SB 370 even though it noted that the “. . . the possibility exists that the [DRE’s] internal audit trail . . . could be programmed to print different results.”
“That’s precisely why it was critical for the Governor to sign this bill,” continued Bowen. “When the very elections officials who are buying these machines admit the election results can be manipulated and oppose a bill designed to audit the machine’s results, you’ve really got to wonder whose side they’re on.”