Statement of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree on Lobby Day

In the past few years, the country has struggled through elections marked by doubts about one of the basic functions of our government – counting votes. The serious shortcomings in our nation’s election system have been exposed. Voters’ faith in how we cast and count votes has been damaged. We cannot afford any further erosion in voters’ trust.

Today, we are seeing a fine American tradition: active and engaged citizens mobilized on an issue important to our democracy. A few smart and dedicated computer scientists and thousands of citizens across the country like those here today have been raising the alarm about a new threat to our democracy – the use of ill-designed electronic voting machines.

All such movements need a champion in the halls of Congress. We have one here today, Representative Rush Holt, who recognized this critical problem in our voting system and has worked hard and effectively to overcome the resistance of the elections establishment and of many of his colleagues in Congress.

Representative Holt’s legislation, HR 550, is a critical step in fixing the flaws in our election system. Too many questions have been raised about electronic voting machines, about their manufacturers and about their hasty implementation. We have to make sure we are doing the right thing for democracy.

Common Cause believes that the ability to verify one’s vote and have a record of each vote as cast must be an integral part of voting equipment – it is important for the accuracy of vote-counting and for Americans’ long-term trust in elections.

We do not believe that current touch-screen technology allows the voter to verify his or her vote in a meaningful manner. The voter must have faith that the internal software is correctly tallying the vote – and there is currently no way to verify the vote independent of that software.

Voting machine manufacturers and many elections officials have rushed to develop and put in place touch-screen machines without sufficient regard to voters’ confidence in the machines and without regard to basic principles of transparency and accountability. A business-as-usual manner, careless procedures, and overtly partisan activity by some vendor executives have exacerbated voters’ alarm about the new machines.

There will be other, separate fights in this Congress to defend the voting rights of Americans, including proposals aimed at suppressing the vote of minorities who historically have been the target of laws and practices designed to keep them out of the voting booth.

But the fight today to gain support for HR 550 is about one of the fundamentally important functions of the government in our democracy: providing a fair, secure, convenient and accessible voting system. The act of voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Americans must have confidence that their vote will be counted fairly and accurately.