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.