House to consider e-voting reform bill

It would require a paper record for e-voting machines

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote as early as Thursday on a bill that would require a paper record for electronic voting machines.

Rep. Rush Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, which has 216 cosponsors in the 435-member House, would require that all e-voting machines used in the November 2008 U.S. elections be accompanied by a voter-verified paper ballot. E-voting critics have been calling for paper-trail ballots for several years, arguing there's no way to audit e-voting machines without them.

Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, said on his Web site that he is pleased the House is set to move forward with the legislation. His bill would require random audits of voting results in 3% of all U.S. precincts, and it would prohibit e-voting machines that include wireless or Internet connections.

While groups such as Common Cause and have called for paper trails, organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind have resisted efforts to slow the adoption of e-voting machines, saying e-voting allows blind people to vote without assistance for the first time.

The Holt bill faces several obstacles to becoming law, said Matt Zimmerman, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which supports the bill.

"It is not at all clear whether the bill will pass or, even if it does, whether a substantively similar companion bill will then pass the Senate," Zimmerman wrote on the EFF blog. "Like it or not, with election officials arguing that they're running out of time to implement wholesale changes, this likely amounts to Congress' only attempt to make any serious improvements to the nation's election procedures ahead of the 2008 presidential election."

Common Cause sent an alert to members this morning, urging them to contact lawmakers in support of the bill, said Mary Boyle, a Common Cause spokeswoman. "This is the last chance for Congress to ensure that ballots are backed by paper records in the critical 2008 presidential election," she said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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