TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would require all voting machines to produce an individual paper record for each vote cast passed the Senate State Government Committee today.
“At the core of American society is the ability of the people to go to the polls each year and have their voices heard,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “There is nothing more important to our system of democracy than the knowledge that each individual vote is counted. Without a paper trail, there are no guarantees that the results reported at the end of the night reflect the votes of the people.”
Senator Turner’s bill, S-29, would amend current law to require voting machines to produce an individual paper record for each vote cast. The voter would then be able to inspect and verify their ballot by examining that paper record. The record would be retained by the polling place and used in manual audits and recounts as needed.
“The use of new technologies to upgrade voting machines and make it easier to vote should be encouraged. But a few electrons floating around in a computer are no substitute for a paper ballot that can be physically inspected by the voter and election officials. Every New Jersey polling machine must produce paper ballots so that we can ensure our elections are fair and accurate,” explained Senator Turner.
After voting irregularities during the 2000 presidential election put the results of the election into question, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which authorized $3.86 billion to improve electoral systems nationwide and mandated the replacement of all punch card and lever voting machines by the end of 2005.
In 2003, questions once again arose as researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Rice University published a report examining the problems of voting machine software and the poor construction of the commonly used Diebold voting machine software which exposed the machines to security hazards and potential attacks by hackers. This bill would begin to address some of the concerns brought with paperless electronic voting machines brought about by that report.
“We’ve had two presidential elections in a row where results have had less than the full confidence of the American people,” explained Senator Turner. “When it is so hard to get people to come out to the polls and exercise their most important right, we need to do everything possible to make sure that the voters trust the machines we use. When the world looks to us to be the standardbearer for democracy, our elections need to be beyond reproach.”
The bill was passed by the Committee by a vote of 5-0 and now goes to the full Senate for approval.