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Turner Bill To Require Paper Trail In Voting Moves Forward

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 full Assembly and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“Every November, the millions of New Jersey residents go to the polls to exercise their basic right to vote and make their voices heard,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Those people want assurances that each individual vote is counted every single time they go to the polls. While New Jersey has not faced the voting irregularities that have plagued Ohio and Florida in recent years, 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.

“As new technologies are developed that make voting easier and less expensive, they should be incorporated into our electoral system. But a few electrons floating around in a computer are no substitute for a physical paper ballot that can be inspected by the voter and election officials. In order to provide our residents with elections that are as fair and accurate as possible, we must ensure that every New Jersey polling machine produce paper ballots for every vote cast” 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.

“The last two presidential elections have resulted in outcomes that 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. The United States is the model when it comes to democratic elections and as we encourage developing nations to embrace democracy, our elections need to be beyond reproach.”

The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 55-22 and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 15-0. It now goes to the full Senate for approval.

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