Senators question e-voting paper trail
One said the printouts would discriminate against blind voters
IDG News Service - Calls for the U.S. government to mandate a voter-verified paper trail with electronic voting machines ran into opposition today from two powerful members of a Senate committee, with one senator objecting that a printout would discriminate against blind people.
Voting accuracy advocates, and some lawmakers, have repeatedly called for printers to be attached to electronic voting machines. Advocates of voter-verified paper trail ballots say they would allow voters to check a printout to see what happened inside the direct electronic recording machines (DRE).
But Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, suggested that attaching printers to existing DREs could cause equipment problems on Election Day. "I'm leery of attaching [a printer] on the side," he said. "It seems we're adding a level of complexity."
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), the committee's ranking Democrat, objected because a paper-only verification system couldn't be used by the blind and some other people with disabilities.
"By insisting on paper, you're denying people who cannot read because they cannot see," Dodd said during a hearing attended by several people with disabilities. "I would vehemently oppose any legislation that excludes the ability of those people to have the right to the same thing that those who can read have."
Legislation that doesn't give equal rights to disabled people "is not going to happen," said Dodd, author of the voting reform legislation that became the Help America Vote Act of 2002. If paper-trail ballots are required, audio verification should also be required, Dodd said.
Five bills introduced in Congress this year would require voter-verified paper ballots with DREs. A bill introduced by Dodd would require a choice of paper, audio or visual verification with DREs.
Dodd drew support from James Dickson, who is blind. Dickson, vice president for governmental affairs at the American Association of People with Disabilities, said he had one election worker question why he wanted to vote for a certain candidate, and another election worker refused to help him get all the way through the ballot because the polling place was busy. People with disabilities don't want promises that they will have equal voting rights "just around the corner," he said.
"I voted secretly for the first time last year," Dickson said. "For the first time, I was equal, my vote was secret, and I knew who I voted for. Do not treat us like second-class citizens."
But DRE paper trails would give voters an assurance that their votes were being counted correctly, said supporters of the technology. Even if blind people could not use printouts, the majority of
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