by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
e-voting, iowa, states

'Laboratories Of Democracy' At Work On E-voting

from the paper-ballots dept

Last summer, Congress debated legislation that would have required a voter-verified paper trail on all e-voting machines. I supported the legislation and co-authored an op-ed saying so. That legislation didn't pass, but Joe Hall points out that Iowa is the latest state to switch back to paper ballots in its election system. He points out that thirty states now have rules requiring a voter-verified paper trail, with another 8 states using voter-verified paper trails without a specific state law requiring that they do so. Iowa looks to be even better than some of these other states because it's moving to an almost entirely paper-based voting system. Voting machines will only be used to help voters (especially disabled voters) mark their ballots. This approach is ideal because it ensures that the paper trail won't become an afterthought, as it often does when the "paper trail" is a roll of cash register tape that no one ever looks at.

Thanks to the hard work of voting activists, it appears that state legislatures are doing the job at the state level that Congress couldn't get done last year. In some ways, this is actually a better way of doing things. Last year's debate in Congress was very helpful in raising the profile of the issue, but even most supporters of last year's legislation recognized that some states wouldn't be able to revamp their election processes in time for the 2008 elections. More importantly, if Congress screws up -- as it did when it pushed e-voting on the states with the 2002 Help America Vote Act -- it's much harder to recover than if an individual state screws up. With 50 state legislatures looking at these issues independently, states can try a variety of different approaches tailored to the needs of their individual election systems and adopt the ones that prove most successful. The momentum for verifiable elections continues to grow; hopefully the 12 states that are still conducting elections without a paper trail will get on board in time for the 2010 elections.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Apr 2008 @ 7:37pm

    I'd sue, but I'm not a patent troll type

    "Voting machines will only be used to help voters (especially disabled voters) mark their ballots."

    Had that idea from the outset of all the e-voting problems, took about 5 seconds to make. The jackass side of me says I should have patented the process and made a fortune screwing everyone.

    Still, glad I didn't. Now if only we can get the other 18 states to play by the same rules . . .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 8 Apr 2008 @ 5:29am

    Help America Vote Act?
    That has grandstanding written all over it just by the name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt Bennett, 8 Apr 2008 @ 7:35am

    Laws at the state level are almost always better, except in some very specific circumstances. This is why there's the idea of "States Rights" and "Congress shall pass no law except to..." The Federal government does a great deal more than it should or needs to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Henry Clay, 8 Apr 2008 @ 10:10am


      ...and yet no one now seems to understand that this is the idea our country was founded on. Everyone has just accepted the federal government's new unlimited power.

      Thank you for pointing that out Matt.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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