Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rush Holt Paper Record Audit Bill Analyzed

analysis of Rush Holt bill

Alan Dechert (OVC) opinion of the Holt Bill
Posted on Wednesday, February 07, 2007

January 10, 2007
Talking Points
The Good News (Really) About Voting Machines

In the summer of 2004, I attended a national meeting of state election directors, and one of the biggest laugh lines was how activists were demanding that electronic voting machines produce a paper record of every vote cast.

An election official stood in front of the group, produced a roll of paper and started to unroll it while saying, to the delight of many in the audience, that the paper record would have to be mighty long to record all of the votes on a California ballot. Ha! Ha! Ridiculous!

The tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy nuts who hate electronic voting could complain all they wanted, the consensus in the room seemed to be, but paper records for electronic voting were impractical and unnecessary, and they were not going to happen.

What a difference two years makes.

Today, 27 states ­ including such large ones as California, New York, Illinois and Ohio ­ require electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail. There is paper-trail legislation pending in a dozen more states.

And with the Democrats now in control, Congress appears poised to pass a strong federal law requiring electronic voting machines to produce paper records.

...V. Poised for Victory at the National Level

Having electronic voting machines that can be trusted should not be a partisan issue, but for some reason it has been.

Democratic members of Congress have introduced most of the bills to require paper trails for electronic voting. (One notable exception: Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, has a paper trail bill. In 1998, Senator Ensign lost a Senate race to Harry Reid, now the new Senate majority leader, by fewer than 500 votes.) The Republican leadership prevented those bills from coming to the floor.

With the Democrats now in charge, there is an excellent chance that a federal law requiring a paper trail will pass.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, is the new chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over election law. Last October, Senator Feinstein announced that she intends to introduce legislation requiring paper trails and mandatory, random audits early in the new session.

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, plans to push a paper trail bill in the House. Mr. Holt’s bill, called the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, has more than 220 bipartisan sponsors.

If paper trail legislation is passed, there is certainly a chance that President Bush will veto it. But it is unclear whether a president who was put in office by the Supreme Court after an electoral system meltdown ­ and who has vetoed so few bills ­ would want to end his presidency by vetoing a popular bill to ensure the integrity of American democracy. In any case, given the growing bipartisan support for paper trails, it is not out of the question that a veto could be overridden...

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