Monday, October 20, 2008

Election reform groups issue report assessing state election preparedness

The Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and Verified Voting issued a report last week, Is America Ready to Vote?, examining state preparations for voting machine problems in 2008. According to the news release, the report "evaluates each state by four criteria: procedures for issuing emergency paper ballots, reconciling ballot tallies, providing paper records of votes cast, and post-election audits. The report reveals a broad range of preparedness across the country to address Election Day voting system meltdowns." Specifically:

• Of the twenty-four states that use voting machines, eight states, including Colorado and Virginia, have no guidance or requirement to stock emergency paper ballots at the polls. In contrast, twelve states, including Ohio and North Carolina, recommend emergency paper ballots to be given to voters if machine failures are causing long lines.

• While all states do some form of ballot accounting and reconciliation, the 50-state report card finds that the requirements in ten states (Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia) fall far short of best practices – meaning there are insufficient provisions to make sure that every vote is counted, and only once.

• 28 states get "inadequate" on post-election audits because they lack paper records from which to conduct audits (like Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia) or because they do not mandate manual audits even where paper is available (like Michigan, Montana and others).

The report includes lots of color-coded maps that make it easy to see which states did well or poorly on the assessment. I'm pleased to say that California rates extremely well. Just four years ago when 40 percent of California voters were casting ballots on paperless, electronic voting machines, that would not have been the case. Kudos to Common Cause, Verified Voting and the Brennan Center for issuing this report.

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