Friday, April 14, 2006

Voting reform activists lobby Congress for paper trails and publicly verified vote counts

Last week hundreds of voting reform activists descended on Congress to urge support for HR 550, a bill authored by Congressman Rush Holt that requires a voter-verified paper record for every vote cast and public, hand recounts of ballots in at least 2 percent of the precincts in each state selected at random.

Holt's bill has attracted nearly 180 co-sponsors (ten in just the past week, as a result of the Lobby Days effort), and activists are hoping it will move forward soon. The "Lobby Days" activities supporting HR 550 were organized by the I Count Coalition, which includes Common Cause, Verified Voting, VoteTrustUSA and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Despite growing support for Holt's measure, electronic voting critic Bev Harris of Black Box Voting is opposing the measure, calling it a "placebo". As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows, and this week an e-voting supporter and paper trail opponent, Dan Tokaji, shared his surprise and delight to find himself in agreement with Ms. Harris.

As a longtime supporter of election verification, I am the first to recognize that there is no magic bullet to fix all that ails the voting process. But we have to start somewhere. Requiring a voter-verified paper record and ensuring the public has the opportunity to verify the results is the best place to start. These reforms bring greater transparency and accountability to the voting process by providing a way for the average person to see for themselves that election results are accurate.

Fortunately California and more than half the states have already enacted paper trail laws, and the number of states that require public verification of election results has tripled in the past two years. Federal legislation would get the job done across the entire country. For more details on HR 550 , see this Open Letter from its author, Congressman Holt. A complete wrap-up of the Lobby Days' activities is available from the I Count Coalition. See also Jessica Alaimo's article in The Hill.

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