[E-voting] (WV) Ballot Legislation Helps Ensure Voter Confidence
cansbro at eircom.net
Mon May 9 21:37:54 IST 2005
May 09, 2005
Hedda Haning and Julie Archer
# Ballot legislation helps ensure voter confidence
Members of the Legislature and Secretary of State Betty Ireland are to
be commended for their support of legislation requiring a paper ballot
for any electronic voting machine used in West Virginia. Requiring a
voter-verifiable paper ballot is the simplest way to provide election
officials with a paper backup to recover voters’ intents and protect the
integrity of our elections.
The passage of House Bill 2950 should be reassuring to citizens who were
appalled at voting irregularities and problems that occurred in a number
of jurisdictions around the country during the 2000 and 2004 elections.
Although there are six bills currently pending in Congress to require a
voter-verifiable paper ballot, it is quite possible that none of them
will be considered until 2006. Passage is likely to come too late to be
of any help in the next election. This is why the decisive action taken
by the Legislature is so important. West Virginia is not alone in its
decision to move forward with voter-verifiable paper ballots. Thirteen
states already have this requirement, and over 20 other states are
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In addition to requiring a voter-verifiable paper ballot, HB 2950
contains other important provisions, which do the following:
# Require that elections conducted on electronic voting machines must be
subject to random recounts in 5 percent of precincts. During the
required post-election canvass and any requested recount, the paper
ballot will be the vote of record.
# Require that each voter be able to view (or hear) the actual selections
recorded on the paper copy and verify they are correct before the ballot
is cast. (Unless you have paper ballots that have been verified and
approved by voters, no meaningful audit can be done.)
# Authorize the use of ballot-marking devices — essentially a computerized
marking pen designed to provide privacy and accessibility to voters who
are blind, vision-impaired, or have a disability or condition that would
make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot in the usual way. A
ballot-marking device records votes on a standard optical scan ballot.
This excellent technology can be used with a variety of interfaces,
including touch-screens with magnified font, a sip-and-puff device, or
an audio function; and has multiple language capabilities.
# Authorize the use of precinct scanning devices to alert voters of over-
or under-votes and provide them with an opportunity to change ballot
selections prior to depositing the ballot into the ballot box.
This comprehensive legislation is a positive step toward ensuring a
valid voting process, and is complimentary to the secretary of state’s
plan to help West Virginia counties become compliant with the Help
America Vote Act. Under the secretary’s plan, counties will be provided
with an optical scan system, plus one handicap-accessible voting machine
per precinct, at no cost. Optical scan ballots have several advantages.
First, optical scan ballots are their own voter-verifiable paper ballot.
Second, when augmented by at least one ballot-marking device per
precinct, optical scan systems meet HAVA requirements to provide access
for voters with disabilities and allow all voters to use an identical
paper ballot. Finally, voters and election officials in the majority of
West Virginia counties currently use and are already familiar with
optical scan ballots.
In addition to providing counties with an optical scan system, the
secretary’s plan makes funding available to counties that currently use
touch-screen or direct-record electronic (DRE) voting systems to
retrofit existing machines to provide voter-verifiable paper ballots.
Some county clerks have expressed concerns about the voter-verifiable
paper ballot requirement, citing paper jams and other printer
malfunctions that could require poll workers to enter the voting booth,
putting the secrecy of the voter’s choices in jeopardy. However, the
same is already true in the case of malfunctions of existing paperless
touch-screen or DRE voting systems. Any automated or mechanized voting
system has the potential to violate ballot secrecy, if and when it
malfunctions. In actual practice during the 2004 primary and general
elections held in Nevada, problems with the voter-verified ballot
printers were extremely rare. Furthermore, if counties follow the
secretary of state’s recommendation, then there are no printers to
malfunction because optical scan ballots are their own voter-verifiable
Again, the Legislature and Secretary of State Ireland should be
applauded for their efforts to protect the integrity of elections in
West Virginia and ensure that citizens can continue to have confidence
in our democratic process.
Archer is an official of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group. Haning
is a leader of West Virginia Citizens for HAVA.
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