Voting Paper Trail Requirement Clears Committee

A bill that would require all polling places for federal elections to produce paper ballots for voters' inspection prior to casting their vote, passed a critical test in the House Administration Committee on Tuesday. From here, the bill proceeds to a vote of the full House, which could come as soon as next week.

"The voting system shall require the use of or produce an individual voter-verified paper ballot of the voter's vote that shall be created by or made available for inspection and verification by the voter before the voter's vote is cast and counted," reads the bill's first section. It goes on to mention electronic voting machines parenthetically, as one of the possible producers of the paper ballot.

This language is important because it doesn't impose any federal mandates specifically on how electronic voting machines can or must be used. Rather, it focuses on the idea that there must always be a paper trail, never mind how it gets there.


It's this language which may be greasing the skids, as it were, for this bill; by not invoking the debate about the efficiency of e-voting machines, it avoids getting under the skin of electronic voting proponents who still perceive these devices as providing a solution to the debacle encountered in 2000.

Another principal provision of the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 would make certain that voters are given an opportunity to see the paper ballot -- even the backup ballot produced by the e-voting machine -- prior to the vote being cast, giving the voter an opportunity to correct any error.

This is important also, because it cleverly creates a situation where any electronic voting system must record the final vote tally based on the approved paper ballot, rather than simply record the vote and produce the paper tally as a backup.

The bill would then prohibit federal voting systems from being able to produce paper trails that associate voters with the votes they cast. In avoiding direct regulation of e-voting machines, the bill does not specify that the machines cannot attribute voters with their votes; later legislation may be required to address this loophole.

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