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US to consider evoting reform

Are you paying attention, Mr Blair?

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US Senator Bill Nelson met yesterday with election supervisors to discuss his new election reform bill, the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" and look for funding for his plan.

Also known as HR 811, the Act is an amendment to the 2002 Help America Vote Act, and proposes that a voter-verified ballot paper should be required as a record of any vote that has been cast electronically. The paper record would then be the record of the vote to be used in any recount.

Nelson is asking for $300m in federal funding to make the changes his bill would require.

The bill allows the use of optical scanners, but bans voting machines from being connected to the internet or containing wireless networking kit. It requires that notices reminding people to check their vote be displayed prominently in the polling stations and requires an automatic audit if there is a higher than three per cent difference between electronic record and paper ballots. Lastly, the bill mandates that the source code used in the machines be made public.

While this kind of content will cheer critics of evoting immensely, the states that have forked out millions to equip themselves with evoting machines that meet the current legal minimums are not so happy.

Boone County in Florida has already said it thinks the bill is too specific and will mean the equipment they currently use, only bought last year, will be obsolete. They particularly object to the requirement to use high quality paper to print the record of the vote because their machines can't handle it.

Other states have raised concerns about potential conflict with local laws. South Dakota, for example, says an election may be certified within seven days. Under HR 811, this process could take longer.

Still others have raised concerns about the quality of the print-outs and the likelihood of voters actually remembering to check their vote.

Representative Rush Holt has signed on as lead sponsor to shepherd it through congress. ®

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