As federal funding becomes available under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to upgrade voting systems in West Virginia and around the country, our group is very concerned that the voting machines purchased be a good choice and not a major mistake. WV Citizens for HAVA is especially concerned about touch-screen voting machines, or DREs (Direct Record Electronic), and that switching to this type of voting system will put the integrity of our elections at risk.

DREs have caused a wide range of election problems in many jurisdictions around the country. These problems include votes being inexplicably lost, the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, and the certification of questionable election results. A variety of other problems have been reported in the news and as these problems have become more publicized they highlight the fact that DRE technology is fatally flawed. Unfortunately there is nothing in West Virginia election law that prohibits the purchase or use of DREs. At least one county has been using them for all voting since the 2000 general election and several other counties have recently gone to touch screen machines for early voting. We are concerned that these DREs may have been purchased without knowing about all of the problems and questionable votes associated with their use.

We understand that as officials charged with making election system decisions you may not have the time to sort through all of the information available about voting systems, and that you may be under pressure to make decisions with little guidance from either the state or federal government. For these reasons we would like to share with you and the county commissioners a research document compiled by the national organization Voters Unite! "Myth Breakers for Elections Officials" is sort of a consumer's guide to voting systems and details little known facts about electronic voting, including HAVA misunderstandings, recent election disasters, price comparisons of electronic voting systems, hidden costs of DREs, election complexities of DREs and alternative HAVA-compliant voting systems. We have enclosed the preface and summary and we hope that you will take the opportunity to download and read the entire report, which is available at www.votersunite.org/takeaction/mythbreakers.pdf.

Even when problems such as simple mechanical failures, inadequate numbers of election personnel and newness causing confusion are solved, unmodified DREs can never be suitable voting equipment because:

There is no relationship between what is on the screen and what is going on inside the computer. A vote can be tampered inside the machine without any outside evidence. If you don't have a voter verifiable, auditable paper trail, you don't know whether or not you have a problem.

The software is secret. It is not subject to review or test by election officials. No one outside of the company knows what the software can do. Those parts of the software that have been accessed by computer experts were found to be full of questionable instructions and security lapses.

A recount in impossible on a touch screen machine without a paper trail. DREs can only reprint the same numbers over and over. They will match every time. That is not a recount.

We urge you and the county commission to follow the Secretary of State's recommendation that a voter-verified paper ballot should be required for all voting systems used in West Virginia. This would provide a paper backup to recover voters' intents if a recount were necessary and for use in required precinct canvases.

We hope that reading "Myth Breakers" will help you and the county commission in your decision-making and answer questions you might have about electronic voting. Please contact us if you would like more information. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns with you. We're counting on you to protect the integrity of our elections.