Paper Trail and New Voting Technology
Common Cause shares many of the concerns of the growing number of
Americans who have serious concerns about the reliability and
security of new touch-screen voting machines.
We also share the concerns of those who have worked for many years
to ensure that all Americans have the right to vote, have equal
access to voting, and have the right to vote in private. But
we believe that no one’s right to vote has meaning if the voter
cannot be reasonably assured that their vote was counted as cast.
Common Cause believes that the ability to verify one’s vote and
have a record of each vote as cast must be an integral part of
voting equipment – it is important for the accuracy of
vote-counting and for Americans’ long-term trust in elections.
We do not believe that current touch screen technology allows the
voter to verify his or her vote in a meaningful manner. The
voter must have faith that the internal software is correctly
tallying the vote – and there is currently no way to verify the
vote independent of that software.
We believe it is critical at this point to provide a
voter-verifiable paper audit trail as one of the essential
requirements of voting systems.
While we recognize the demonstrable problems with paper-based voting
systems and support efforts to develop new technology for future
voting systems, including all-electronic verification systems, we
remain convinced that, for now, a paper-based verification system is
the best alternative.
While we support providing a voter-verified paper trail, we know
that touch-screen machines offer numerous benefits: faster counting
of votes, accessibility for blind and physically handicapped voters,
and flexibility for different languages and different ballot types,
including alternate voting formats such as instant runoff voting.
In terms of error rates, touch screen voting machines, with the
assurance of a paper trail, can be the most effective method for
casting and counting votes.
We challenge the voting machine industry, elections officials, and
the technology community to build a new machine; to develop a voting
system that will retain the many benefits of touch-screen voting,
but not require voters to rely on simple faith in software that
their vote will be counted as they cast it.
New technology is not the whole solution -- voting machines are only
one part of a voting system. Voter education, poll worker
training, especially in regard to fair and equal treatment of
voters, provisional ballots, imposition of unnecessary ID
requirements, polling place accessibility, and collection of data on
voters’ actual experience in the polling place are all important
Transparency and Accountability
Voting machine manufacturers and many elections officials have
rushed to develop and put in place touch-screen machines without
sufficient regard to voters’ confidence in the machines and
without regard to basic principles of transparency and
accountability. A business-as-usual manner, careless
procedures, and overtly partisan activity by some vendor executives
has exacerbated voters’ alarm about the new machines.
The companies that produce equipment for elections must be held to a
far higher standard of accountability and transparency. State
and local elections officials must be far more vigilant in their
oversight of the vendors. The government, not the vendors,
must be in control of our system of voting.
Vendors should adhere to strict nonpartisan policies and practices.
There must be a competitive and open contracting processes for
purchase of voting machines.
There must be strict conflict of interest codes for elections
officials and vendors.
Testing of machines should be done publicly and by a truly
independent body. Testing should be done at every step of the
process, including random testing of machines on Election Day.
The time for reform is not over. Our system of voting should
be an ongoing national priority. Congress must not treat HAVA
as a one-time reform. HAVA should be a precedent for federal
funding and assistance to state and local governments that will make
our system of voting the best it can be.
We will continue to work at the state and local level to ensure that
HAVA is implemented fairly and fully and to fight against efforts to
put up new barriers to voting.
Congress and President Bush took far too long to appoint and confirm
commissioners to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal
agency charged under HAVA with dispensing funding and developing new
standards for voting machines. The commission has critical
responsibilities and needs to meet and we will be closely watching
to ensure that it operates in an open and accountable manner.
Congress and President Bush must commit to fully funding HAVA and to
provide additional funding if that becomes necessary. Congress
and the president should make this a long-term federal commitment.
There are few more fundamentally important functions of the
government in our democracy than providing a fair, secure,
convenient and accessible voting system. Such a system will
build confidence with voters and may begin to restore much of the
public’s loss of trust in our democracy.