Report Provides First National Look at Voting Security Debate; Growing Concern over Electronic Machines Portend Controversy in November

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Washington, DC- With the 2004 presidential election and unprecedented national attention on elections approaching, the issue of whether Americans can trust the voting machines on which they cast their ballots has become the most significant--and divisive--election reform issue since the disputed 2000 Presidential election.

A report by electionline.org provides the first nonpartisan and non-advocacy look at the status of efforts to secure electronic voting as members of the Election Assistance Commission hold a hearing next week on the issue.  

Securing the Vote, the organization's seventh Election Reform Briefing, looks at what states do to ensure that voters and candidates are confident that election results are accurate and trustworthy. electionline.org found that concerns about the security and integrity of ballots cast on direct-recording electronic (DRE), or “touch-screen”, voting machines have resulted in lawmakers or chief election officials in 25 states either considering bills or enacting rules that would require machines to produce ballots that can be manually recounted. 

The electionline.org study also noted that 48 states and the District of Columbia use a mix of state and federal standards to ensure that voting machines meet rigorous standards for accuracy, durability and security. Thirty-five states employ federal as well as state standards to certify machines. Only Mississippi lacks any state or federal standards for voting machines, while Oklahoma has a statewide system of optical-scan machines. 

“The report confirmed what many had suspected; that the debate over voting security--especially electronic voting machines--is a nationwide issue that has been the focus of legislatures across the country,” said Doug Chapin, director of electionline.org. “While there have not yet been any known instances of compromised security with electronic voting, the growing concern over the possibility of hacking and manipulation--combined with the introduction of new machines nationwide and a sharply divided national electorate--will almost certainly make this issue the most pressing since the hanging chad of South Florida four years ago.” 

The report details voting machine usage nationwide, updates the status of proposed voting machine security legislation and charts the progress of proposals to mandate voter-verified paper audit trails. 

Among the other findings in the report: 

  • An unprecedented level of scrutiny awaits the November vote. “It would appear that America is on track for election controversies because so many people are on the lookout for them to occur,” the report states.
  • The largest voting machine manufacturers have been slower to adapt to changing market conditions --the growing desire for paper backup --than smaller companies.
  • Congress has before it a number of bills that would mandate the use of voter-verified paper audit trails. Yet not a single committee hearing has been held. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

electionline.org, a project of the University of Richmond sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, is the nation's only nonpartisan, non-advocacy website providing up-to-the-minute news and analysis on election reform.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.

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