House panel passes critical voting machine legislation

Paper records and audits will make voting machines more trustworthy

Common Cause today applauded the Committee on House Administration for approving the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR 811), which would require all voting systems to produce a voter-verifiable paper record for every vote cast, and mandate automatic routine audits for all voting systems nationwide

“This is a big step toward fixing our badly broken election system,” said Susannah Goodman, director of voting integrity at Common Cause. “This bill strikes a careful balance between voting integrity advocates demanding auditable voting machines by 2008, and state and county election administrators who feared overly aggressive implementation deadlines. We urge the full House to move quickly to pass the bill and send it to the Senate.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) would require that electronic voting machines produce a paper record by November 2008 for every vote cast. Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia currently use paperless voting machines. They are: AR, DE, FL, GA, IA, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA.

The bill would also require states to conduct mandatory random routine audits. Currently, more than 75 percent of the voting systems in the United States are not audited.

“Without an audit, a miscount of votes, caused by a simple programming error will go undetected,” Goodman said. “We demand rigorous audits of our corporations and institutions. We must do the same for our election systems, the foundation of our democracy.”

In addition, the legislation as passed out of the committee would:

. Require that states conduct automatic routine audits in 3 percent of precincts. When the margin of victory in a race is less than 2 percent, the number of precincts audited will increase.

. Authorize $1 billion to replace or retrofit equipment so that it complies with the mandates of the legislation.

. Mandates that voting system software be available for inspection.