Congress must push for voter paper trail
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With little progress thus far on safeguarding the accuracy of electronic voting, Congress is positioned to get it right this time.
Let's hope it does.
A bill introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) would require electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail, allowing elections officials and voters to properly account for each vote. Voters would be able to trust that their ballots can be independently verified.
It's a sensible national policy that's long overdue. Snags in the system have been all too familiar. After the 2000 election — think "hanging chads" — a national push for electronic voting resulted in many states opting for electronic machines, many without paper trails. Problems ranged from user error to "flipped" votes, in which a vote for a candidate is erroneously recorded as a vote for that candidate's opponent.
There is some good news. Some states, including Hawai'i, already require that electronic machines produce a paper trail. In Hawai'i, electronic voting systems are required to generate a paper ballot that may be inspected and corrected by the voter before the vote is cast. Each paper ballot is the definitive record of the vote cast.
But without similar safeguards in other states, the integrity of federal elections cannot be adequately assured.
Allowing some states to continue to cast ballots using machines without a verifiable paper trail creates scenarios for faulty results, court challenges and chaos.
Holt's bill, which has bipartisan support, including that of Hawai'i's Congressional delegation, would need some minor revisions. For example, the bill would require states to comply by the 2008 election. Some states, particularly smaller ones, may need some leeway in that regard. However, the overall package of reforms is solid.
Voting is fundamental to our democracy. It will take a wide array of reforms to inspire confidence and integrity in our elections process. This bill starts us on a sensible path to get to that point. Congress should pass it.