Breakthroughs in states requiring voting equipment to support fair election methods

The California draft Help America Vote Act (HAVA) plan was released on June 17. It has very clear language about promoting compatibility with instant runoff / ranked choice ballots and with cumulative voting. The Massachusetts final HAVA plan and Vermont's HAVA report also have strong language about equipment supporting instant runoff voting, and New Jersey's HAVA report has language about proportional voting methods in general. See excerpts and links below.

In addition, legislation moving in New York state on voting equipment has clear language on ranked-choice systems. The bill, which passed the assembly on June 19, states that new voting machines must "possess the capacity to, or capacity to be easily modified so as to, provide for ranked order voting and cumulative voting." The senate will take up the bill in the fall.

As we have argued in our national testimony, we believe the case is strong that requiring this capacity when obtaining new equipment is cost-free, while waiting to add it to existing equipment in the future can be very expensive. We believe this is likely true of other potential democratic innovations that are well worth seeking to anticipate in the purchasing stage.

In addition to information to links from states referenced above, you also will find below information about the Michigan NAACP's support for standards in support of fair election methods and about FairVote Minnesota's efforts to promote these standards in its state.

HAVA state plan in California

Ranked ballot and cumulative voting compatibility appear in Section 1:

Hava Compliance With Voting Systems Standards
In consultation with local elections officials and other interested parties, including an advisory committee constituted for those purposes by the Secretary of State, and after considering any voluntary guidelines adopted by the Commission pursuant to Subtitle B of Title III, California will, through the regulatory, legislative, voting system certification and decertification processes, or otherwise, comply with HAVA, including the replacement of voting systems that do not comply. In order to help restore the integrity of the voting process, increase the opportunity for all eligible citizens to participate in that process, and to comply with HAVA, the State, under the direction of the Secretary of State, as Chief Elections Officer,11 will, in conjunction with the consultation referred to above, in part:

  • support, promote and encourage the use of direct recording electronic (DRE/touchscreen) voting systems, at polling places in California, and optical scan systems that are used for tabulating vote-by-mail ballots, that are compatible with alternative voting methods such as ranked ballot and cumulative voting...
  • consider, through established processes, decertifying systems and refusing to certify systems that cannot accommodate alternative voting systems, such as ranked ballots and cumulative voting systems, in a manner in which voters can easily understand;
  • regularly evaluate voting systems to assess error rates, reliability and accuracy factors, accessibility to voters with disabilities, language assistance needs and literacy needs, and ability to accommodate alternative voting systems; work with local elections officials to share information and make improvements...


Massachusetts final HAVA plan

Ranked ballot and cumulative voting compatibility appear in Element 1, page 10:

HAVA Compliance with voting systems standards:

In an effort to retain the integrity of the voting process, increase the
opportunity for all eligible citizens to participate in that process, and to comply with HAVA, the Commonwealth, under the direction of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, as Chief Elections Officer, will, in part:

(d)   develop voting system standards requiring, as part of certification
process, that the system demonstrate the ability to support a representative set of possible future ballot procedure changes, including instant runoff voting, as feasible, with an upgrade cost that is substantially less than the cost of complete system replacement...

Vermont HAVA plan

The Vermont HAVA plan contains this sentence on page 12 discussing the requirements of new voting machines. They must be able to ...
"Export an anonymous record of each vote into a secure data file in order to support the option to use rank order ballots or instant runoff voting.

New Jersey HAVA plan

Key reference is on page 25 in Section 4 on voting machines: "Further, explicit power should be granted to the Attorney General, on the basis of the voting machine committee recommendations, to de-certify any voting machine that is shown to not meet HAVA requirements. In short, current law has been outpaced by the growing technological advances and must be revised. Any such revision to statutes or regulations should be flexible enough to consider the capability of a voting system to adapt to changes in voting procedures, such as proportional or cumulative voting, which are concepts being considered in other jurisdictions."

Recent Articles
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President of Air America Media, Mark Green, explains why Instant Runoff Voting, Automatic Registration and Mandatory Voting are not only important but could lead to a more democratic society.

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