August 5, 2003 --
"The 2002 Help America Vote Act made several important and large-scale improvements to the nation's elections system, particularly in regard to accessibility," writes the American Association of Persons with Disabilities' Jim Dickson. The law requires each polling site have an accessible voting machine by January, 2006. Most of these accessible machines will use a touch-screen display.
The "voter verifiable paper ballot" initiative now moving across the country could threaten all this, says Dickson, who calls the move a "dangerous and costly" delaying tactic on access.
"VVPB supporters dispute 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," says Dickson (Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say they've found at least one electronic voting system vulnerable to tampering; read the Science Daily article online at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030725081820.htm ). These concerns will delay purchase of computerized systems, thus again delaying independent and private access to the vote, say some access advocates.
A touch-screen machine must be attached to a printer so as to give the voter a paper "audit trail" say new laws in Illinois and New Hampshire. California is currently considering such a move as well. David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor has led the push; read a story about his work from last week's Denver Post at http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~1540873,00.html
California's Task Force to study the issue concluded there was no need for a paper audit receipt, but disability advocates fear Dill will push for one anyway: read the report at http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/taskforce_report.htm
"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," says Dickson. "Not only will the rights of people with disabilities be stripped, but the costs of local elections will rise significantly." The League of Women Voters, like AAPD, opposes the VVPB -- read their thinking at http://www.lwv.org/where/promoting/votingrights_hava_drevm.html Read the AAPD's position on VVPB at http://www.aapd-dc.org/dvpmain/votemachines/aapdballots.html
Aug. 7 update -- Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has ordered an outside review of the security of the touchscreen scheduled to be used in next spring's presidential primary election. Read story from Baltimore Sun.