Report Detailing National Election Reform Finds State Lagging
Washington, DC- Despite an early start in meeting federal election reform mandates, Pennsylvania's reform efforts have become embroiled in controversies over new voting machines that could delay the upgrades of polling-places in time for the 2006 primaries.
"What's Changed, What Hasn't and Why: Election Reform 2000-2006," released today by electionline.org, finds that Pennsylvania completed a statewide voter registration database to meet one of the mandates of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) before the Jan. 1, 2006 national deadline. However, the state missed deadlines for replacing older voting technology, including lever voting machines, because of concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems and a slow certification process that has left only one voting system for purchase to meet accessibility requirements.
"Pennsylvania was one of the first states to embrace the need for change after 2000 -- particularly in the area of building a statewide voter list," said Doug Chapin, director of electionline.org. "Unfortunately, all that effort hasn't been enough to shake controversies about how well new voting technology will be able to address the problems identified in November 2000."
"Election Reform 2000-2006" tracks changes to voting around the country. It offers a definitive, nonpartisan and non-advocacy account of the state of the American electoral system a month after the deadline for significant changes.
Among the findings from around the country:
- Concerns about electronic voting machines have been steadily growing since the passage of HAVA. In 2006, 25 states will either require the use of paper audit trails with e-voting machines or require that a ballot be cast only on paper. Legislation is pending in states that currently have no paper-trail requirements.
- Spurred in part by HAVA, the number of states requiring all voters to present identification before voting has doubled since 2000.
- While statewide voter registration databases have not been completed in every state, the lists that have been built vary widely in function, capability, and design.
- Provisional ballots -- which allow voters who believe they are registered but are not on registration rolls to cast ballots and have their eligibility determined after they leave the polls -- are now in place nationwide, but counting rules differ from state to state. Some states require those casting provisional ballots to be in the correct precinct to have their eligibility determined. A national survey revealed provisional ballots cast in wrong precincts were the second- most common reason for ballots to be rejected in the 2004 presidential election.
While Congress appears to have little appetite for amending HAVA or enacting new election administration-related legislation, activity in the states continues, particularly on issues relating to early and absentee voting, the restoration of rights for ex-felons who have completed their sentences, and centralized voting stations versus neighborhood precincts. "Election Reform 2000-2006" offers a detailed look at what has happened in each state over the past five years.
"The center of gravity for reform has shifted from Capitol Hill to outside the Beltway," Chapin said. "The changes that have occurred in the states -- and those that have not -- could have a profound influence on the 2006 election and beyond."
Electionline.org is the nation's leading source for nonpartisan and non- advocacy news and analysis of election reform issues. It is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts through a grant administered by the University of Richmond.
For more information, visit http://electionline.org.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.