TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would require all voting machines to produce an individual paper record for each vote cast was signed into law today by Governor Richard Codey as part of a package of bills to enact needed voting reforms.
“The American people have fought hard during our history to secure the right to vote for all adult citizens,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “When our constituents take the time to exercise this right, they deserve the assurance that their vote will be counted each and every time, without fail. It has become clear with the voting problems we have seen in other states that we need to ensure that every vote is recorded on a piece of paper that can be verified by the voter before leaving the polling booth and can be manually counted by election officials if needed.”
The new law, formerly bill S-29, amends current law to require voting machines to produce an individual paper record for each vote cast. The voter will then be able to inspect and verify their ballot by examining that paper record. The record will be retained by the polling place and used in manual audits and recounts as needed.
“Recent advances in technology have allowed us to make voting and the tabulation of votes quicker, easier and less expensive, but it has led to questions of reliability, security and fraud. At the end of the day, a few electrons floating around in a computer are simply no substitute for a physical paper ballot that can serve as proof for the choices made by a voter. Voter verifiable balloting allows us to maintain fairness and accountability while enjoying the benefits that new voting machines can provide,” 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 because of the questions that electronic voting has raised,” explained Senator Turner. “If the world is supposed to look to the United States as the model of democratic elections, our elections need to be beyond reproach.”