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National Issues

S. 3212: A Step Backward for Voting System Transparency PDF  | Print |  Email
By Verified Voting Foundation   
July 26, 2008
Download Verified Voting's complete statement on S. 3212

On June 26, 2008, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) introduced the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act (S. 3212). The press release accompanying the introduction of S. 3212 observes “the ability to ensure there is an accurate, reliable and transparent method for Americans to cast and count votes is fundamental to our democratic process.” Unfortunately, S.3212 falls far short of ensuring accuracy, reliability, and transparency in our elections and is likely to do more harm than good.

The bill contains some generally commendable provisions relating to election security (Section 4), voting system testing and certification (Section 5), and ballot layout design (Section 10), but the positive aspects of these provisions are outweighed by the problems created by many of the other sections of this bill. Despite its worthy motivations, the bill fails to carry out its objective.

A number of troubling provisions require us to urge opposition to S. 3212:
1. S.3212 allows “independent” vote records that would exist only in computer memory to be used to verify electronic vote totals.

2. The non-paper verification methods allowed by S. 3212 would increase the costs and burdens of conducting elections without the benefit of increased confidence and auditability.

3. Language in the bill would exempt from any verification requirement those paperless voting systems purchased before January 1, 2009 to meet HAVA's accessibility requirements. This would leave millions of voters (particularly those with disabilities) dependent on insecure paperless electronic machines for the foreseeable future.

4. S. 3212 is opaque and disturbingly open to interpretation on a critical question: would the bill require that it be the voter that verifies the contents of the independent record?

5. S. 3212 would not define the legal status of the independent record in the event of a discrepancy in vote tallies.

6. The bill would not require states to use the independent records in post-election audits.

7. S. 3212 would not require the EAC to adopt model audit guidelines for jurisdictions that use paper ballot optical scan technology (now the most common voting system in the United States) nor would it require optical scan paper ballots to be utilized in any audits conducted in those jurisdictions.

8. S. 3212 is unclear regarding how its requirements would apply to accessible ballot marking devices.

9. S. 3212 could restrict the publication of valuable information about the security and reliability of voting systems.

10. S. 3212 would place a representative of the voting system manufacturing industry on the committee that drafts federal voluntary voting system guidelines.

It is our view that all elections should be accessible, publicly verifiable, independently auditable, and as simple and cost-effective as possible, both to conduct and to audit. There is room for innovation, but innovation occurs even without such legislation, when demand exists. But we must take the necessary steps to safeguard all our elections—today, not years down the road. Yet this bill does not do that. Instead, it allows unverifiable systems to persist indefinitely.

However well-intentioned, S. 3212, if enacted as written, would damage the transparency and reliability of Federal elections in the U.S. for decades to come. respectfully urges citizens and members of the United States Senate to oppose its passage.

Download Verified Voting's complete statement on S. 3212
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