Illinois HAVA Testimony[Dan Johnson-Weinberger, former general counsel of the Center for Voting and Democracy and director of the Midwest Democracy Center, testified to the Illinois HAVA committee on July 16, 2003. His comments were well-received.]
July 16, 2003
To: Illinois State Board of Elections
From: Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Midwest Democracy Center
Re: Ensuring compatibility of ranked ballots and cumulative voting of new equipment purchased in Illinois.
Illinois is about to purchase thousands of new machines to tabulate votes. The State Board has the authority to ensure that all of these new machines come standard with the ability to process ranked choice ballots or cumulative voting, instead of making it an option (at some additional expense) for counties.
Interest in Illinois in ranked ballots and cumulative voting is growing. Peoria uses cumulative voting for its city council elections. Four pieces of legislation authorized the use of ranked ballots or cumulative voting in the 2003 Illinois General Assembly: HB 138 (awaiting the Governor’s signature) allows county boards to give cumulative voting rights; HB 3301 authorizes Irish-style ranked ballots for municipal elections; HB 2544 authorizes any municipality to give cumulative voting rights; and SB 1371 authorizes any school board to give cumulative voting rights (the last three bills did not pass). Of course, this legislative authorization to use ranked ballots or cumulative voting in local governments is rather meaningless if the election equipment is incapable of processing ranked ballots or cumulative voting. Such an important policy question should not depend on the voting equipment; the voters or elected officials should decide what voting system to use based on the needs of the people of the community.
The Federal Election Commission’s recently-released Voting Systems Standards includes a requirement that all equipment vendors certify whether their equipment can process ranked choice voting and cumulative voting. [See Volume 1, Sections 184.108.40.206(M) and (n).]
The State Board has the authority to require that vendors, who wish to be certified in Illinois, answer in the affirmative to the aforementioned federal standard.
There should be no additional cost to the counties for this certification requirement. All of the major vendors already compete for business in jurisdictions that use ranked choice ballots (notably San Francisco, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ireland, municipalities in New Zealand and Australia). Many counties (Harris County, TX, Santa Clara County, CA, Mendocino County, CA) have already issued requests for proposals for new voting equipment that specifically include a requirement of compatibility with ranked ballots and cumulative voting.
Draft HAVA plans in California, New Jersey and Vermont include language requiring equipment compatibility with ranked choice ballots and cumulative voting.
When vendors build in this compatibility to process ranked ballots and cumulative voting, it then becomes a standard feature of their equipment rather than an additional option to purchase. The automobile is an apt analogy: a sunroof is an additional option to purchase, while seat belts or air bags come standard. The more jurisdictions that require compatibility with ranked ballots and cumulative voting, the more likely that these features will come standard (with no additional cost) in all new voting equipment.
Please consider including in Illinois’ plan for compliance with HAVA a certification requirement that vendors answer in the affirmative to the aforementioned federal standard.
I will be happy to submit any additional, specific information regarding any draft HAVA plans in other states or any other topic.
Please also see our website at fairvote.org for more details.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Director Midwest Democracy Center