Election Reform Bid Seeks to Create Voter's Paper Trail

By Jered Ede | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A new attempt at election reform would force poll workers to produce a paper confirmation for each person casting a machine ballot. "This is about ensuring that every vote counts and is counted," said Patrick Eddington, press secretary to U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat.

Each of the nation's last two presidential elections has resulted in Democratic allegations that Republicans manipulated the voting in key states -- Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004.

Holt's bill, would amend the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which does not currently require paper verification of a person's vote.

"This bill has a lot of bi-partisan support," Eddington told Cybercast News Service. Actually, the bill has 132 Democratic and only 3 Republican co-sponsors (Rep. Thomas Petri of Wisconsin, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma), but Eddington pointed out that in addition to the House Republican sponsorship, similar legislation has been passed in 19 state legislatures and proposed in another 16.

Although one section of the bill states that the records shall not be preserved "in any manner that makes it possible to associate a voter with the record of the voter's vote," Brian Walsh, press secretary to U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), said he believes the bill would do otherwise.

Ney, who chairs the House Administration Committee, to which the bill was referred, "does not support [the bill]," according to Walsh. "The chairman doesn't feel at this point that we should be re-opening HAVA when the bill hasn't even been implemented," Walsh said.

"HAVA was a bipartisan compromise," Walsh told Cybercast News Service. "It gave individuals with disabilities, particularly the blind, the ability to vote in private for the first time ever. A paper ballot undermines that right; they would have to have someone voting with them."

Walsh said Holt's bill would take "away the rights of disabled individuals to vote privately." He added that states' rights would be hurt as well. HAVA "was meant to improve the elections while still preserving the rights of the states to conduct [the elections] as they see fit."

Eddington insisted that the bill is about "ensuring elections are verifiable" and pointed out that the second section of the bill stipulates that "individuals with disabilities [be allowed] to verify and cast the permanent record on paper [...] privately and independently."

Federal legislation, Eddington said, "is needed on this issue [to ensure ...] a uniform standard." He cited claims that voting rules are inconsistent across the country.

According to VerifiedVoting.org, 19 states have legislation requiring paper ballots, 18 states have proposed legislation awaiting action by either the legislature or the governor, and 13 states have either mixed requirements or no paper ballot requirement.

But Walsh said Holt's bill has the wrong focus. "Every example that we have ever had of voter fraud in this country has revolved around paper ballots," Walsh said. "Why, all of a sudden, do people feel that it is paper ballots that would ensure the integrity of an election?"

H.R. 550 is currently in committee. Similar bills have been proposed in the Senate.

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