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Ensign Backs E-Voting Paper Trail
By Roy Mark   InternetNews   09 February 2005

Nevada lawmakers introduced legislation today to require a paper trail be used with all touch-screen voting machines. In the 2004 national elections, Nevada was the only state to require e-voting machines to produce a paper backup of votes.

Under the Voting Integrity and Verification Act (VIVA) proposed by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), voters will be able to review a printout of their ballots and correct any errors before leaving the voting booth. The printout will be kept at the polling place for use in any recounts.

"We became the first state in the nation to require that voter-verified paper audit trail printers be used with touch-screen voting machines," Ensign said in a statement. "Not only did our election go off without a hitch, but voters across Nevada left the polls with the knowledge that their vote would be counted and that their vote would be counted accurately. Every American should have that same confidence."

In the November general elections, a number of unsuccessful lawsuits throughout the country attempted to force states to produce a paper trail for e-voting machines. Diebold and other vendors say their machines come with printers, but the states did not request the machines be programmed to produce a paper trail.

The primary problem with e-voting, voting rights groups contend, is that it leaves no paper trail in case a recount is needed. At the end of an e-voting day, the machines print out a vote tally. There are no individual ballots mangled or with hanging chads to count.

By Election Day, approximately 30 percent of Americans cast their votes electronically using a non-networked system consisting of hardware and software that interacted through Flash technology to tabulate votes.

In addition to Nevada's mandated paper trail, California allowed voters to be given a paper ballot if they didnt want to use an e-voting machine. In all other states, including key battleground states like Ohio and Florida, there were no paper trails for e-voting machines.

"Congress set aside billions of dollars for states to buy new, more reliable electronic voting machines. But those machines arent perfect, and without a paper trail we can't guarantee that all votes will be counted correctly," Reid said. "Nevada is the only state that had a paper-trail system in place statewide for the last election. We need to help the rest of the country catch up to us."

In the aftermath of the 2000 contested election results, Congress approved almost $4 billion for states to fully upgrade their voting systems by 2006. A spokesman for Ensign's office said he did not know if additional funding would be needed to support paper trails.

Ensign's and Reid's VIVA clarifies language in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was signed into law in 2002.

Ensign said some states have misinterpreted HAVA as requiring that machines be able to print vote totals or ballot images from a computer, outside the presence of the voter, long after the polls have closed. VIVA clarifies what is required, including a paper trail, by the states to ensure the integrity of the ballot.

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

"Nevada led the nation in our state-of-the-art electronic voting process last year," said Gibbons. "To ensure the most accurate and efficient voting procedure, it is time for the nation to follow Nevada's lead. This legislation would ensure that every state has electronic voting machines with paper trails to guarantee a voter's vote is recorded clearly and counted accurately."

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