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.
“The right to vote is perhaps the most sacred right for any American,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “When people take the time to exercise this rights, they deserve to know that each individual vote is counted every single time. While New Jersey has not faced the widespread voting irregularities that have plagued Ohio and Florida in recent years, we shouldn’t wait until that happens to take action. Voter verifiable balloting is needed now so that New Jersey voters are assured 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.
“Technology has the potential to make voting easier and less expensive, helping us to expand the ideals of democracy in America. But 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 be inspected by the voter and election officials. Fairness and accountability should not be done away with just for the sake of simplicity when it comes to voting,” 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. “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 Senate by a vote of 36-0 and now goes to Governor Codey’s desk for his signature.