Voting machines must include a verifiable paper trail and audit
capability in time for the 2006 elections, according to a bill
introduced this week in Congress.
The legislation requires states to follow a stricter set of federal
rules that are designed in large part to respond to a wave of concerns about the electronic voting machines used in November's election.
"Congress set aside billions of dollars for states to buy new, more
reliable electronic voting machines. But those machines aren't perfect,
and without a paper trail, we can't guarantee that all votes will be
counted correctly," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said.
The measure applies only to e-voting machines such as touch-screen, lever-voting and optical-scanning systems. It would
not affect punch card systems, paper ballots, or mail-in and absentee
Called the Voting Integrity and Verification Act, the bill says states
must allow the "voter to review an individual paper version of the
voter's ballot before the voter's ballot is cast and counted." The paper
ballot, typically viewed under glass, would become a "permanent paper
record" that must be preserved in case of a recount.
After the November 2004 election, a handful of Democrats sought to stall President Bush's
certification as winner by alleging problems with e-voting machines in
Ohio. But this bill has support from both Republicans and
Democrats. Its sponsors include Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev.; Conrad Burns,
R-Mont.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Mark Dayton, D-Minn.; Lincoln
Chafee, R-R.I.; John Sununu, R-N.H.; and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Some states and counties already require a paper ballot receipt, but
there is no national standard in the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Enacted after the 2000 presidential election debacle, that law doled out billions of dollars to states without the requirement of a
paper ballot receipt.
Computer scientists such as those represented by the Association for
Computing Machinery have flagged potential security problems and have
called for electronic voting
machines to produce a "physical record." The Information Technology
Association of America has opposed mandatory paper trails.