Rep. Holt reintroduces bill to require paper trails for voting

Virginia HB 2702

Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) has reintroduced legislation that would prevent the use of paperless electronic voting systems. The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, which Holt introduced Feb. 5, would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

"Until we require that voting systems produce a voter-verified paper ballot, the results of our elections will always be uncertain," Holt said in a statement. "All Americans deserve to be confident that their vote will be counted, and it is my hope that the 110th Congress will act soon to pass legislation that will ensure elections are fair, accessible and auditable."

Touch-screen voting machines have been the object of suspicion  since a team of researchers revealed in 2004 that at least one model could have its integrity compromised in ways that would be hard to detect. Subsequent analyses have reinforced the fears, although  companies that make the machines insist their security measures combined with secure practices used by local elections officials make the machines safe.

However, the tide of opinion seems to be turning against the machines. In addition to Holt's bill, Charlie Crist, Florida’s Republican governor, has proposed spending $32 million to replace touch-screen machines in the state with optical scan systems. Those systems have voters record their choices on paper ballots, which are then counted by machine. In Virgina, the House of Delegates is considering legislation that would require the use of optical scan systems, while the Virginia Senate has passed a similar bill.

Holt's measure would require a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast, which would become the ballot of record in the event of any recount or audit. The bill would require routine random audits of paper ballots to spot check the accuracy of the electronic systems. Other provisions include allowing inspection of voting system software and documenting a secure chain of custody for voting systems.

Holt introduced similar legislation in the previous two Congresses, and last year his bill garnered 222 cosponsors, but those measures did not come to the floor for a vote.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), former chairman and now ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, endorsed Holt’s bill. Reliance on paperless machines has only served to lessen public confidence in elections, he said.

"This legislation takes a big step toward restoring that public confidence," Davis said.

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