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National Issues

New York Times: Safeguarding Electronic Voting PDF  | Print |  Email
By Mew York Times   
April 04, 2008
This editorial was posted at the New York Times on April 4, 2008.

After the bungled voting and vote-counting in Florida in 2000, Americans agreed that the nation’s voting systems had to be upgraded. With a presidential election fast approaching, there is a real danger of another meltdown — this time because of the flaws in electronic voting.

This week, a House committee approved a good emergency bill, sponsored by Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, that would help fix the problems. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, should schedule a vote of the full House as soon as possible.

After the 2000 election, Congress made money available to the states to replace the punch-card machines that produced Florida’s infamous hanging and dimpled chads. Unfortunately, many states bought untrustworthy, paperless electronic voting machines. Experience has shown that these machines do not always record the votes that are cast and that they sometimes flip votes from one candidate to another. Expert studies have also proved that they are highly vulnerable to vote theft.

The answer to these problems is voter-verified paper trails — paper records of every vote. After an election, the totals on the machines can be compared with the paper records. If there is a discrepancy, the paper records become the official results.

Most states, including New York, California and Illinois, now have laws requiring voter-verified paper trails. Unfortunately, many states still do not. If electronic voting fails in any of these states this fall, it could cast doubt on the entire election.

Mr. Holt’s bill would make money available to states to convert to paper-based electronic voting before Election Day. It would also provide funds to conduct audits of paper records to ensure that the results from the computerized machines were correct. Ideally, these steps would be mandatory — no state should be able to conduct federal voting that does not meet minimum standards of reliability. The Holt bill would do a lot of good, however, by at least making it possible for states that want to fix their systems to do so.

Americans need to know that when they vote this November they’ll be getting a new, fairly elected president — not another lawsuit.

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