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Mauro: Update All of Iowa's Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
By Jennifer Jacobs, Des Moines Register Staff Writer   
January 23, 2008
More than 70 counties must update their voting machines to meet a new state law that requires a paper trail for every machine. The state's top election official believes that this presents an excellent -- but expensive -- opportunity.

All the counties could have the exact same same voting machine technology if lawmakers require it, and help pay for it, Secretary of State Michael Mauro told lawmakers today. The best system, in Mauro's view, is one that gives every voter an actual paper ballot that could be recounted later.

He'd like every precinct to have one optical scan machine into which voters feed their paper ballots, and one ballot-marking machine that stamps the paper ballots for people who are blind or who can't use their hands.

But to outfit each of Iowa's precincts with these two machines would cost $9.7 million. And that's where the sticky part comes in: The governor's proposed spending plan contains no money for such a plan. There is just enough money for a cheaper plan that would also ensure a paper trail.

For the cheaper plan, lawmakers last year set aside $2 million to help counties rig their electronic touch-screen voting machines with a roll of paper called a "verified paper audit trail" or VPAT. Through a glass screen, voters can see the votes the machine records for them, but they can't touch the roll of paper. Election watchdog groups have a problem with this system because of a distrust of electronic voting machines, which they believe are more vulnerable to tampering.


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