Bill Provides For Voter Verified Paper Records, Mandatory Audits, Source Code Review
A bill to require voter verified paper records, mandatory random audits, and other important election reform measures is headed to the desk of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. The bill, SB 1557, passed the Arizona House unanimously and the Senate 25-3. The Senate version. The House effort was led by Rep. Ted Downing (D-28, pictured at right), while the Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sen. Karen Johnson (R-18, pictured at left).
Sen. Johnson said in the AZ Star that the current tallying process — done strictly by computers — isn't enough to ensure accuracy. "We cannot trust computers; that's the main purpose of this," Johnson said. "You hope everything will be great, but we've already had problems."
The passage of this landmark legislation, described by Maricopa County Election director Karen Osborn as “one of the most significant election reforms bills in decades”, is the culmination of years of efforts from activists and concerned legislators. AZ Audit, Arizona Citizens for Fair Elections, and Arizona Citizens for Election Reform have all focused their efforts on establishing basic election safeguards in the state.
The struggle has often been contentious, most recently in the controversial decision of Pima County to purchase Diebold touchscreen voting machines. Concern about the current unauditable system in Arizona stems from the results of a 2004 Republican legislative primary race in the Phoenix area. One candidate's four-vote victory there triggered an automatic recount, giving a 13-vote victory to another candidate and uncovering nearly 500 additional votes.
In addition to a basic requirement for a voter-verified paper record of every vote, the bill also calls for a hand counted audit of 2% of the state's precincts. Significant discrepancies between hand and machine counts will require expansion of the hand count. The bill establishes a seven person "Vote Count Verification Committee" that will set the hand count expansion discrepancy margins prior to each election. According to Tom Ryan of Arizona Citizens for Fair Elections, this was a solution to the problem of not having sufficient statistics available to put specific discrepancy margins into law from the start. Each election will provide more statistics and the Committee can base it's margins on all previously obtained data and this body of data will grow with time.
In an effort to avoid long lines at polling place, the bill will also require election officials to predict the number of voters in each precinct and plan ahead to avoid long waits. Election officials will also monitor polling place wait times.
Most significantly, SB 1557 will require vendors to place voting system source code in escrow with the Secretary of State. This code will be reviewed if audits show significant errors in the electronic tabulation. The also includes a provision that requires that the machines provide "a durable paper document," rather than the thermal paper used by some vendors.
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