Thursday, February 14, 2008

Federal Power Grab or Solution? U.S. Electronic Voting Systems

Another round of a federal "fix" for what many have asserted are fallible paper-less voting machine systems is being met with support and opposition.

Just search the internet to determine the growing numbers of organizations welcoming the introduction of the Rush Holt bill in Congress - HR 5036. Called the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008, the measure is supported for a variety of reasons. Of particular note is the support by the National Association of Counties

National NACo

NACo also takes care to point out:

NACo takes no position on any voting system or method of counting or auditing ballots. In his letter to Holt, Naake stated...


Regardless of how the legislative process unfolds, it is unlikely that Congress will appropriate funds for any new incentive grant prior to the presidential election this year. NACo would support funding for any incentive grant to counties should the opportunity arise in an emergency spending bill, but funds for new programs are rarely appropriated until after the next fiscal year begins in October.

As a result, counties cannot rely on any promises of funding in pending legislation as they make their budget decisions this year. However, the shift in approach represented by H.R. 5036 — from imposing federal mandates to offering incentive grants — offers promise for restoring the partnership between the federal government and counties on election reform legislation.

See sidebar link to the legislation's details and current status. Search our site for more on the issue.

On the other end, there are those who believe the bill's requirements cement the federal government's power and oversight of elections. Unconstitutionally so.

The NACo site includes reference to:

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), a member of the panel, has proposed similar incentive grants for counties that adopt vote-by-mail (H.R. 1667).

(Net the Truth Online)

(Updated) A Dangerous Fix for Election Security
The John Birch Society News Feed - Wed, 2008-02-06

We strongly object to the unconstitutional means by which H.R.5036 would use the people's desire for voter-verified paper ballots as bait for establishing centralized, federal control over elections. To take immediate action on this issue, please click here.

John Birch Society Action Alert

Oppose H.R. 5036, Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008

...Our Position:
The John Birch Society opposes the unconstitutional federal usurpation of the rights of states to control elections. We strongly object to the unconstitutional means by which H.R. 5036 would use the people's desire for voter-verified paper ballots as bait for establishing centralized control over elections. The constitutionally established balance of powers must be restored to prevent an over centralization of federal power leading to a dictatorship... Statement in Support of HR5036: “Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act”
January 26, 2008
As 2008 begins, over 30 million voters face the prospect of depending upon unverifiable and insecure electronic voting equipment in the November elections. Millions more will vote on paper ballot systems without the reassurance of a routine hand counted audit of the vote tallies. Already we have seen voters turned away from the polls in South Carolina as a result of machine malfunction and insufficient emergency paper ballots.

There is an excellent way that Congress can improve confidence in the 2008 elections: by quickly passing HR 5036, the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act. HR 5036 would reimburse counties, states, and other jurisdictions for the cost of replacing paperless voting equipment with paper ballot systems purchased in time for the November elections, the cost of emergency paper ballots in locations that use electronic machines, the cost of hand counted audits of the 2008 federal elections, and even for the cost of hand-counting the ballots on election night if a jurisdiction chooses to do so.

Responding to reports from a series of voting system reviews undertaken in undertaken over the past year, many states and counties are ready to make a change in their voting systems. The question for many jurisdictions across the country is not whether to purchase voting equipment that secures both voter confidence and electoral integrity, but how to pay for it.

HR 5036 would enable these jurisdictions to move away from equipment that has been demonstrated to be unacceptably insecure and manifestly unverifiable by a large body of governmental, academic, and private sector studies: the 2003 Security Application International report,1 Government Accountability Office report of 2005,2 the 2006 report of the Task Force on Voting System Security at the Brennan Center for Justice,3 and most recently, the reviews of voting systems commissioned by a number of states, including California,4 Ohio,5 and Kentucky.6

Many local and state governments have recognized the advantages of a well-established and cost-effective voting system that offers security, accessibility, and reliability: a system of voter-marked paper ballots together with ballot-marking devices to serve voters with disabilities. HR 5036 would provide a strong incentive to purchase precinct count optical scanners and ballot-marking device systems.

Paper ballot optical scan systems together with ballot marking devices offer all voters the same individual paper ballot, protect the secrecy of the vote, and, unlike continuous paper rolls, offer a dependable, reliable record of the intent of the voter. They are also less expensive and burdensome for county election officials. The solution has been praised by voters with disabilities,7 and by some of the most respected professionals in the field of accessible technology.8 Like New Mexico did in 2006, most states that are now considering voting system changes, including Florida, Maryland, and Colorado, have expressed a preference for voter-marked paper ballots read by optical scanners, with ballot-marking devices.

No less important than paper ballots are random manual audits of electronic vote tallies. All computer systems are vulnerable to malfunction and tampering. Hand counted audits are a powerful way to identify systemic problems and mitigate many of security concerns, reassuring voters of the integrity of the election process. Routine manual audits will be done in approximately one fourth of the states this year. HR 5036 would make such audits possible in still more areas...

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