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Around the States

New Jersey Poised to Reverse Verifiable Elections Law PDF Print Email
By VerifiedVoting.org   
November 20, 2008
Voters to be Let Down Again

Legislation introduced today in the New Jersey Assembly threatens to undo a commitment to verified elections the state made nearly four years ago, VerifiedVoting.org warned today.

“New Jersey threatens to set a new standard for irresponsible delay with this bill,” said VerifiedVoting.org president Pamela Smith. “New Jersey's e-voting machines have reported inconsistent results in both the primary and the Presidential election, and have been found by top computer scientists to be insecure and inaccurate. Adopting a reliable, auditable, verifiable system is the only correct response.”

Following the publication last month of a severely critical study by Princeton University computer scientists, Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi acknowledged the machines' problems and encouraged voters to vote absentee rather than use the machines. In the February 2008 Presidential primary, machines in 8 New Jersey counties reported inconsistent totals in the internal memory and removable memory cartridges.

The bill introduced today by Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (A3458) would undo the state's present law requiring voter-verifiable paper records by January 2009. In its place, a pilot program for small jurisdictions in the June 2009 primary would study the “feasibility” of paper records, with the results evaluated over the summer. The timeline would all but guarantee that the 2009 gubernatorial election would be conducted on the state's current electronic machines.

“There is no way to do a meaningful recount on these machines,” Smith said. “The solution here is not slapping bad printers on bad machines, nor is it eliminating the law; it is stepping forward to a better system,” she added.

In July 2005, the New Jersey Legislature passed a law requiring voter-verifiable paper records, with a January 2008 deadline. The state's Division of Elections chose to have newly-developed printers fitted to the aging Sequoia Advantage voting machines which count most of the votes in New Jersey. Problems with the printers caused the Legislature to extend the deadline twice, to January 2009.

“A better option for implementing voter-verified paper records exists: a system of paper ballots marked by voters and read by optical scanners, with accessible ballot markers to serve voters with disabilities,” Smith said.  “It is shocking that this cost-effective, reliable choice used by nearly two-thirds of the nation’s voters has been ignored entirely by the Division of Elections.”

“Their custom printers cost an exorbitant $2,000 a piece. For the same or less money, the state could get new optical scanners and ballot markers,” added Smith, “and the problems with lines due to broken machines at the polling places would disappear in the bargain. Don’t New Jersey’s voters deserve that?”
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