Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Feinstein wants to reform electronic voting

Electronic-voting machines used in federal elections would have to produce an independent, voter-verified "paper trail" of each ballot cast, under a bill announced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein, D-Calif., had introduced an election-reform bill last year, but it had only Democratic support and didn't get far. This bill has bipartisan support, but isn't as far-reaching and won't take effect as soon.

Feinstein issued a statement calling S.3212, the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act, "the culmination of extensive efforts over several months to come together to craft a bipartisan election technology bill capable of achieving broad support from members of both parties.

"Currently, we have a patchwork of voting systems throughout the country, including states that use electronic-voting systems but have no independent records to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the votes cast," she said. "The ability to ensure there is an accurate, reliable and transparent method for Americans to cast and count votes is fundamental to our democratic process."

Joining Feinstein in introducing the bill was U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah — the ranking Republican on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which Feinstein heads — who said this bill both ensures high security standards and encourages continued innovation in election technology. The committee is expected to hear the bill next month.

While 2007's AdvertisementBallot Integrity Act would've required reforms to take effect by elections in 2010, this bill pushes the date to Jan. 1, 2012, or even to 2014 if a state gets a waiver.

The bill would require that voters using direct-recording, touch-screen voting systems be able to verify their choices by means of an independent paper, electronic, audio, video or pictorial record at the polling place. Such records could go through an audit and would be available for review in case of a recount.

This year's bill would prohibit states from rejecting voter-registration forms, absentee ballot requests and absentee ballots sent by military and overseas voters.

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