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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Panel advances paper-ballot measure

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

A measure that requires the state's electronic voting machines to spit out a paper ballot for verification purposes advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee after receiving dozens of letters of support.

The state Office of Elections began giving voters the option of using electronic voting machines during the primary and general elections last fall. They almost immediately generated controversy when voters statewide raised questions about the potential for error or abuse because they offered no voter-verified paper audit trail.

During the November general election, about 5 percent of all voters used an electronic voting machine. The Federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 required at least one electronic voting machine at each polling place to allow voters with disabilities to vote independently. The state, however, is allowing all voters the option of using the new machines.

"If there is a sizable group of voters who distrust the machines, we should take the necessary steps to reassure them," said Jean Aoki, legislative chairwoman for the League of Women Voters of Hawai'i.

Jason Forrester, a member of the group Safe Vote Hawaii, said six other states have passed similar legislation requiring a paper trail for electronic ballots. He estimated the cost of adding a printer at $600 to $800 per electronic machine under the state's current system.

Dwayne Yoshina, the state's chief elections officer, said his office does not believe a voter-verifiable receipt is necessary to confirm and validate an election. A number of safeguards are already in place, he said, including testing of each machine before the election as well as manual audits and poll-book audits that are conducted on election night. The electronic machines can be audited by printing each voter's "ballot image" that can be reproduced physically at a later point.

Yoshina said he cannot be sure how much the addition of an on-site printer would cost because discussion continues nationwide about what type of standards to use. He said he has heard estimates of $100 to $1,000 per machine. How that cost will be met, he said, is something lawmakers need to consider.

Also yesterday, the Judiciary Committee cleared a bill that would require Yoshina's office to establish a vote-by-mail pilot program for up to three of the House districts in the state with the lowest voter turnouts during the 2006 election.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.