Bill Would Help States Ditch Electronic Voting

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-01-22

New Jersey Democrat Rep. Rush Holt recently introduced a measure that would provide financial relief for states that jumped into electronic voting only to find those systems increasingly unreliable.

Holt's Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008 would provide $500 million to reimburse state and local governments that want to switch their paperless DRE voting back to paper-based voting systems in 2008 and conduct audits by hand counts. The money would also be available to communities that agree to provide emergency paper ballots that would be counted as regular ballots in the event of machine failure.

The reimbursements cover the cost of equipment and cost of developing procedures for using a paper-based system, with or without electronic counting, Holt said.

"There is still time to take action to protect the accuracy, integrity, and security of the 2008 general elections," Holt said in a statement. "This plan provides an incentive for state or localities that want to do the right thing."

Holt's effort comes in response to mounting concerns that many electronic voting machines across the country are insecure, prone to error and provide no way to recount ballots if mistakes are suspected. Many of those machines were rushed into service in the wake of much-publicized voting problems during the 2000 presidential election. In the wake of that general election, Congress passed the $3 billion Help America Vote legislation that paid for many of the DRE machines that states such as California, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Colorado and Holt's home state of New Jersey are now looking to get rid of.

Holt is also the author of the pending Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act which would require a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast in the U.S. along with routine random audits. The bill was reported out of committee in May and awaits action on the House floor. It also requires the states to meet federal standards for ballot verification and auditing.

The EASE legislation, meanwhile, includes no nationwide standards, but would provide incentives for states to organize voter-verified, audited elections for the 2008 general election. According to Holt, more than 20 states will be conducting "completely unauditable elections in 2008."

"The right to vote is the most fundamental right of our democracy as it is the right through which we secure all others," Holt said. "Voters should never have to leave their polling places wondering if their legitimate vote will be counted. This bill would give local and state officials the resources to protect citizens' right to vote. Time is of the essence. I hope for House consideration and passage as soon as possible."