Oppose Efforts to Reverse Virginia’s Course toward Verifiable Elections

Current Virginia law, since 2007, requires that all new voting machines be optical scan tabulators that provide a voter-verified paper audit trail. Localities may no longer purchase new paperless electronic voting machines, known as DREs. This law amounts to a program of phasing out DREs in favor of voting machines that leave a paper record to support recounts and audits.

There are two bills currently before the General Assembly that seek to overturn the ban on purchasing new DREs – even though the primary DRE vendor in Virginia is no longer in business.

Please contact your state senator and delegate and ask them to oppose SB 988/HB 2422.

You can find your legislator at http://legis.state.va.us. The legislators with the critical votes on election issues are those on the Privileges and Elections committee in each chamber.

As of January 2009, 31 states have enacted laws to require that every voting system provide a voter-verifiable paper record, including North Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland. An additional 8 states have chosen to purchase voting systems that provide a voter-verifiable paper record.

Since 2004, Iowa, Maryland, Tennessee, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Virginia have passed laws to phase out direct-recording electronic voting systems altogether. California has greatly restricted the use of direct-recording electronic systems. Last year, at the urging of the Secretary of State, over 30 counties in Kentucky that had used previously used only DREs chose to adopt a paper ballot voting system as their primary voting system.

Over three-fourths of the states have moved toward verifiable voting for excellent reasons. Without a voter-verifiable paper record, a meaningful recount of an election cannot be conducted, software errors can make it impossible to recover the voters’ intent, and the opportunity for large-scale fraud is expanded. These are the conclusions of many of the world’s top computer scientists.

If the General Assembly passes HB 2422 or SB 988, Virginia become the first state in the nation to reverse direction and move back toward paperless electronic voting.

Electronic voting machines, known as DREs, do not provide any form of voter-verified paper trail to support audits or recounts. Any errors or tampering with the software for a DRE could change election outcomes and leave absolutely no trace.

DREs are inherently unsafe for something as critical as an election. The security safeguards that would normally be in place for an electronic system cannot be used because of the extreme privacy requirements for an election. Only the voter can verify the accuracy of the ballot.

The current law allows existing DREs to be used for the remainder of their useful life, and then phases in optical scan tabulators. Fairfax County, Arlington County, Williamsburg, Charlottesville and Suffolk bought optical scan tabulators this year for some or all of their precincts to comply with current law.

The 2007 decision by the General Assembly and the Governor was a strong step forward for election integrity. It came after several years of hearings, citizen action, and is in-line with the direction the majority of the states are heading. Virginia citizens deserve verifiable elections.

We also support bill SJ 328 which will direct the state government to study conducting post-election audits of voting machines.

Working for safeguards to improve the integrity of Virginia’s elections

The General Assembly is in session, and considering election integrity reforms (and some proposed rollbacks). View 2008 Bill Summary (requires Adobe Reader).

Please ask your state Senators to support:

  • SB 292 — Provides real recounts and audits during the voting canvas
  • SB 536 — Strengthens security requirements for voting machine certification

Please ask your Senators and delegates to oppose:

  • HB 638 — Rolls back the ban on new DRE (electronic voting machine) purchases

Our Objectives — free, fair, secure elections for our democracy

  • A voter-verified paper audit trail via optical scan ballots — a permanent record, verified by the voter, of each vote cast. This requirement is absolutely essential for recounts and audits to be able to ensure the integrity of our elections. Paperless DRE machines provide no means to detect errors or prevent fraud. Proper implementation must protect voter privacy, and include random audits to compare electronic and paper counts. Other verifiable voting technology may be preferable and less expensive. Optical scan ballots are proven cost-effective systems that always provide a voter-verified paper audit trail.
  • Random post-election audits of paper records. No business, government or financial organization would just assume critical records are correct without auditing. The whole purpose of paper trails (whether from optical machines or DREs) is to allow regular manual audits after each election to check machine accuracy. The audits are our safeguard to detect and remedy errors and election fraud.
  • Audit paper ballots during recounts. Current Virginia law does not provide a means to examine paper ballots during recounts. Thus there is no procedure in the law to test the accuracy of the machines during a recount, even when the voter-verified paper ballots exist. The solution is to perform an expanded audit of paper records during recounts to determine whether the voting machines performed correctly.


Announcing the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia

Virginia Verified Voting is joining forces with several other citizens groups to lobby for verifiable election technology in Virginia. Coalition members include:

  • Virginia Verified Voting
  • The Virginia League of Women Voters
  • The Virginia Libertarian Party
  • New ERA for Virginia
  • The Virginia Organizing Project
  • Common Cause
  • The Southern Coalition for Secured Voting

Senator Devolites-Davis and Delegate Hugo have announced plans to reintroduce legislation in the 2007 General Assembly session to require paper trails or optical scan machines in Virginia and mandate random audits during canvasses and recounts.

Our lobby day is scheduled for Tuesday Jan 16, 2007
Please plan to help us fight for fair elections. Talk to your senators and delegates, ask them to vote for verifiable election technology and audits. Look for more information soon.

We certainly seek new groups to join our coalition.
For more info, contact info@vavv.org

Why A Paper Trail?

Why We Need Voter-Verified Paper Ballots

  • Many VA counties will hold elections using electronic voting machines that do not produce a voter-verified paper ballot.
  • Many other VA counties are considering the purchase of such paperless voting machines .
  • These machines are susceptible to both intentional fraud and simple ‘bugs,’ which can change the outcome of the election.
  • A number of non-partisan national organizations have come out in favor of voter-verified paper trail, including the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional organization representing computer scientists
  • Certify a voter-verified paper-ballot machine, such as the Sequoia systems machine successfully used in a recent Nevada election (demo).
  • Urge Our Governor to place a moratorium on the purchase of paperless electronic voting machines.
  • Support a state law requiring voter-verified paper ballot.
  • Implement procedural safeguards ensuring the integrity of election results (see suggestions at BlackBoxVoting.org).
  • Support bills in congress requiring voter-verified paper trail.



Ten Things You Can Do to Help Make Voting Secure

You can make a difference!

Our goal is to pass voter-verified audit trail legislation in Virginia in the January-February session. That will only happen with intense pressure from citizens.

  • Register on the Virginia Verified Voting web site www.vavv.org for our action alerts. We won’t flood you with email, just send important announcements in time to act. Please include your physical address so we can tell if you live in the district of a key legislator that we are trying to reach.
  • Inform friends and colleagues about this critical issue. Enlist their support. Encourage them to register with our web site also.
  • This is an election season. Ask your state delegate, and state delegate candidates (in public) whether they will vote to require voter-verified paper trails in Virginia. Delegate and statewide candidates will be at fairs, debates, and citizen forums. They will never be as responsive to voter causes as they are right before an election.
  • We are seeking computer professionals, academics and others to sign collective letters in support of voter-verified paper trails. If you wish to sign, or have contacts within a Virginia university, industry, citizen group or government, please contact info@vavv.org oralexblakemore@comcast.net
  • We would like to present information on this topic to a wider audience in Virginia. If you know of a group that would be willing to have a speaker from Virginia Verified Voting, please contact us at info@vavv.org. We would be willing to speak to political party committees, the league of women voters, church groups, rotary groups, and any other citizen group with an interest in secure elections.
  • Find out if your jurisdiction is preparing to purchase new voting machines before the HAVA funds run out this fall. Meet with your registrar, electoral board or board of supervisors to encourage them to only consider machines that have a voter-verified paper trail. We strongly encourage precinct based optical scan technology at the current time. Contact Virginia Verified Voting info@vavv.org for support.
  • Write your congressman and senators and ask them to cosponsor HR 550 or SB. 330
  • Write a letter to the editor demanding paper audit trails in Virginia. See www.verifiedvoting.org for examples or contact info@vavv.org for support. Contribute to a blog, phone a radio show. Use your imagination.
  • Come back for the final hearing, and bring friends and other supporters. We need to continue to build the pressure for reform. Mon. Nov. 21, 2005, 1:00 P.M. House Room C. There will likely not be testimony at that hearing.
  • Most Virginia legislators will hold public meetings in December or January to hear from their constituents before the legislative sessions start. Please attend the ones in your area and inform your state delegates and senators that you expect them to vote for voter-verified permanent audit trails.