(CNSNews.com) - Even before the first vote is cast in November, anti-Bush groups are questioning the validity of electronic voting.
The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is offering like-minded activists a chance to "take action to protect our votes."
The MoveOn.org website encourages visitors to sign a petition demanding that all electronic voting machines produce paper ballots as back-up. "Every voting method should produce a paper ballot," the website says, "so that voters can verify that their vote is recorded correctly and kept for counting and recounting."
The group says President Bush won the presidency in 2000 "because of faulty and mismanaged election systems" -- a reference to the "hanging chad," punch-card fiasco in Florida.
MoveOn.org says many key states, including Florida, Ohio and other battlegrounds, are installing "black box" voting machines, which it describes as computer voting terminals that don't produce a paper ballot.
In addition to being vulnerable to malfunction, MoveOn.org said, such electronic voting systems do not produce paper ballots that can be verified by voters and (re)counted by election officials. "Since the software is so complicated ... the machines introduce a risk for this coming election and elections in the future," the website says.
The MoveOn petition, which will be sent to President Bush and other government officials, says, "Election officials must make sure electronic voting terminals produce Voter-Verified Paper Ballots, and they must provide backup paper ballots in case the terminals aren't working."
MoveOn.org is among those who argue that the companies producing electronic voting machines are biased. The group points to a fundraising letter for George W. Bush from Wally O'Dell, an e-voting terminal manufacturing executive, in which O'Dell said, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.''
The MoveOn website includes a link to VerifiedVoting.org, a lobbying group, which -- according to MoveOn.org -- "has been doing great work on Voter-Verified Paper Ballots."
VerifiedVoting says "many" people are concerned about the backgrounds of some of the programmers and managers who control "the secret voting machine software." The group supports federal legislation that would require paper ballot backups for all electronic voting machines.
But a Nebraska-based company that manufactures electronic voting systems says the concerns of e-voting critics are unfounded. "Detractors who have not examined the issue closely concoct a theory of conspiracy by devious corporations and manipulation of votes," says the website of Election Systems and Software.
"In reality," ESS continues, "computerized voting, in particular [marked ballot scanners] and [touch screen] voting in its present form, is easy, safe and secure. There are many safeguards, checks and balances built into the process involving procurement, certification, pre-testing, audit reports and results verification."
According to Election Data Services, a political consulting firm, nearly 20 million registered voters used electronic voting systems in 2000, and an estimated 50 million will use them in November.