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National Issues

Demand For Emergency Paper Ballots Grows PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
October 09, 2006
There is a growing concern nationwide that voters will be turned away from polling places this November as the result of machine malfunctions. In primaries across the country this year, and most spectacularly in the recent Maryland primary, thousands of voters have been prevented from exercising their right to vote because electronic voting machines failed to operate properly.

Beyond the obvious need to provide emergency paper ballots at every polling place as a backup in the case of machine malfunction, there is a more fundamental question of the growing lack of voter confidence in direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. Many states where such machines are used provide all voters the option of voting on a paper ballot. Every state should.

Federal legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate last month that would have mandated that all voters be given a paper ballot upon request. It would also have required election officials to post information announcing and confirming that paper ballots were available on request, and established that all such paper ballots would be counted as regular, not provisional ballots. Unfortunately, this legislation was not addressed before Congress broke for their October recess.

A letter, signed by a range of concerned citizens and public interest organizations, is being sent to Governors and state election officials urging them to make contingency plans and procedures to provide emergency paper ballots at every polling place in the November general election, and that every election official, poll worker, and voter be informed of the procedures for utilizing those paper ballots.

It is critical that election officials in states that already require emergency paper ballots or provide voters with the option of using paper ballots take steps to ensure that these existing provisions are enforced. It is equally imperative that election officials in states that do not already have emergency paper ballot requirements address the issue immediately to avoid the potential for disenfranchisement in next month’s election.

VoteTrustUSA supports calls for emergency paper ballot provisions and will be contacting election officials in jurisdictions using direct recording electronic voting systems to urge them to take implement the common sense safeguard of a paper ballot backup. Every county in the nation is already preparing paper ballots for absentee voting. There is no reason that additional paper ballots should not be printed and made available at each polling place on Election Day. No eligible voter should be denied the right to vote because of a malfunctioning machine.
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