Those who are calling for a voter verified paper ballot have already succeeded in delaying the purchase of accessible voting equipment in several counties in California and the states of Illinois and New Hampshire.
AAPD Policy Statement on Voter Verified Paper Ballots
The 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) made several important and large-scale improvements to the nation's elections system, particularly in regard to the accessibility of the voting process for people with disabilities. A significant part of the bill is the requirement to place an accessible voting machine in every polling place in the country by January of 2006. This technology will allow millions of voters with disabilities to cast a secret and independent ballot-many of them doing so for the first time in their lives.
There are, however, efforts that threaten this positive impact and will certainly delay implementation by many years. The most dangerous and costly of these initiatives is the voter verifiable paper ballots (VVPB), already part of state law in Illinois and New Hampshire.
The clique of VVPB supporters disputes the fact that touch screen voting machines are safe, secure, and reliable. They theorize that it is likely that computerized voting systems will accidentally miscount the ballots or that a rogue programmer will steal an election. Therefore, every touch screen must be attached to a printer and give the voter a paper ballot. If implemented in state initiatives, VVPB will violate the letter and spirit of HAVA by once again denying people with disabilities their right to a secret and independent vote. Not only will the rights of people with disabilities be stripped, but the costs of local elections will rise significantly with no promise or guarantee of future federal funding to absorb these new costs.
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) opposes VVPB for four primary reasons:
- It does not substantially address the issue of election fraud.
- It violates the accessibility requirements under HAVA.
- It will raise the costs of local elections and threaten Title III funding.
- Touch screen voting systems that provide a VVPB do not exist, have not been tested in the real world, and are not certified.
1) VVPB AND ELECTION FRAUD
- Since 1964, electronic voting systems have been used in this nation's elections processes. In almost four decades, not a single case of election fraud due to the tampering of a system's hardware or software has occurred. Comparably, in the last 40 years, hundreds of cases of election fraud involving paper have occurred and been successfully prosecuted.
- Dr. Michael Shamos, a noted expert with twenty years experience in testing and certifying voting systems points out: "So-called voter-verifiable ballot systems are nothing of the kind. They simply replace electronic voting, which has a perfect security record, with a paper medium, which is easy to tamper with.
- In order to commit election fraud using a paper system, a perpetrator only needs to know how the elections process works. If a perpetrator were to attempt fraud with a direct response election (DRE), that individual would need to know not only how elections work, but must also possess highly sophisticated technical knowledge and have undetected access to the system on election day.
- Touch screen voting machines are now required to have a paper trail.
- The voters' selection is stored in multiple locations immediately after being cast.
- Touch screen voting computers and the election day software are not available online.
- Each voting machine has its own software.
- An individual DRE will handle approximately two to three hundred votes.
- Election procedures provide multiple cross checks and access to the machines and software is guarded like Fort Knox.
2) ACCESSIBILITY VIOLATIONS
AAPD and the disability community are in favor of a voter having the ability to verify the accuracy of their vote and to change any vote before their ballot is cast. In fact, it is one of the reasons the disability community has so strongly supported the implementation of DRE's that verify ballots and inform voters of a miss-vote.
- By requiring verification of a paper ballot before casting a ballot, blind voters are denied access to a secret and independent verification of their ballot. This action violates the letter and spirit of HAVA according to section 301, subsection (A) which states,
" the voting system shall
(i) permit the voter to verify (in a private and independent manner) the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted."
- People with upper mobility disabilities or limitations are denied equal access to casting an independent vote if a paper ballot must be put into a ballot box. This also is a clear violation of HAVA's intent.
- HAVA requires that all DRE's produce a paper audit trail. This audit trail is the most accurate and efficient way for an election authority to ensure that the systems are operating correctly.
3) THE COST OF VVPB
- There is no question that the printing of paper ballots will significantly raise the costs associated with DRE's and elections. This cost was not intended or foreseen by HAVA.
- Requiring a VVPB will result in federal funds being diverted to the costs of printing paper ballots. This will, in many cases, eliminate the possibility of buying accessible DRE's.
- The additional cost of paper systems will prevent federal funds from being used for poll worker recruitment and training. Miami, in 2002, used touch screen computers for the first time. In the primary, poll workers and voters were not properly trained on how to use the touch screens, resulting in a primary day mess. For the general election, Miami had to use city employees who were properly trained and the election went smoothly, but it cost the county more than a million dollars to use its employees.
- Local jurisdictions and states will ultimately shoulder the additional ongoing costs of VVPB. Since localities and states are the least-funded government entities, the result of VVPB on elections could be highly detrimental.
In addition to these factors, there is also the concern that none of the DRE systems certified by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) specifically for HAVA funds have the capacity to produce a paper ballot. At best, the mandating of VVPB puts election authorities at risk of implementing systems that may be redundant and unnecessary. At worst, this requirement is an assault on the intention of HAVA, and it puts our democracy at risk because of the inaccuracies, unreliability and discriminatory practices. AAPD cannot in good faith support a measure that will negate the accessibility requirements under HAVA and one that creates an unfunded mandate for local election authorities.
Contact Jim Dickson 202-457-0046 (v/tty)
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