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National Issues

Paperless Voting is an Accident Waiting to Happen PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
October 05, 2007
As they prepare to spend millions of dollars in re-election campaigns, members of Congress should be asking themselves “Do I want to be Christine Jennings?”

The certified results of last year’s election for Florida’s 13th District left Jennings 369 votes short of defeating Vern Buchanan. But the announced results in the lthe District's largest county, Sarasota, showed an inexplicably large number of undervotes in the Congressional race– over 15,000, or more than 16%. Unfortunately, the votes had been cast on ES&S iVotronics - touch screen voting machines that provide no independent means of auditing the electronically tabulated votes. While a "recount" was conducted, it was in fact little more than a "reprint".

With the combined candidate expenditures topping $12 million, the Florida 13th District race was the most expensive of the mid-term elections.

While various explanations have been offered for the extraordinarily high undervote rate (the undervote rate in other counties in the District, where voters marked paper ballots, was around 2%), none of these explanations can be proven and Ms. Jennings filed a formal election contest with the U.S. House. The task force of the Committee on House Administration investigating the election contest heard yesterday from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that a further investigation of the machines will take place in November – a full year after the election.

In a Roll Call article, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who serves on the task force, noted that he hopes that the findings of the GAO will eventually allow the task force to finish its review of the 2006 race before Congress gets too much further into the 2008 election cycle, “and finally put to rest for the people of the 13th district of Florida the challenge against Congressman Vern Buchanan.”

Perhaps the question that members of Congress should ask is “Do I want to be Vern Buchanan?” The election results showed that he won, but he is forced to occupy his seat under the cloud of an election contest.

There is a profound disconnect between the nationwide movement away from paperless voting and the discussion inside the Beltway: even Sarasota County, along with the rest of Florida, has already ditched their touch screen machines in favor of more accurate, reliable, and inexpensive paper ballot optical scan voting systems.

Confirming the serious security vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems are the sobering reports resulting from the California Secretary of State’s comprehensive voting system review and similar reports from Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and elsewhere, the revelations of inadequate voting system testing by Ciber Labs, and a relentless flood of academic studies.

But Congress has yet to act. If they don’t, over 30 million voters will face paperless touch screen voting machines when they go to the polls next November with the potential for Florida-13 style contests looming in 20 states.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of problems with voting systems, Congressional leadership seems to be latching on to any excuse to slow down legislation in Congress that would require that elections for Federal office be auditable – and audited.

If leadership allows disinformation campaigns to ride roughshod over the common sense safeguards proposed in Rep. Holt’s Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 811), over 30 million voters this November will face unverifiable voting machines like Sarasota County’s of 2006.

Paperless voting is an accident waiting to happen and Congress needs to act now before it’s too late. Auditable elections and voting system security are not frivolous issues that can be put off until it is more convenient.
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