SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Electronic voting systems should not be used in November's presidential election unless they produce a paper trail as a safeguard against vote tampering, a California panel said on Wednesday.
The advisory panel also urged California officials to
require manufacturers of the systems to upgrade security
measures to prevent hackers from tampering with votes.
The motion specifically recommends new electronic voting
machines be required to print paper-based vote records that
voters could use to verify that their ballots had been cast as
The motion comes amid a national debate about the use of
electronic voting machines, which had been put forward as a way
to avoid the kinds of punch-card irregularities that dogged the
last presidential vote in Florida.
"Paper is coming to California," said John Mott-Smith, a
member of the California Voting Systems and Procedures Panel.
"It's not a question of if, but a question of when."
Seven members of the eight-member advisory panel backed the
motion and one abstained.
The vote followed hearings over the past two weeks in which
activists, including president of the California Voter
Foundation, demanded paper-based proof of votes.
By contrast, elections officials from a number of
California counties warned they would have to scramble to
prepare for the November election if electronic voting were
scrapped altogether, as some had urged.
The California panel has been closely watched because many
of the high-tech state's counties have scrapped punch-cards in
favor of electronic voting, which holds the promise of more
Voting on the systems in March in some California counties,
however, was marred by a number of glitches.
A report by the Secretary of State found that 55 percent of
polling places in San Diego County were unable to open on time
because a component on a system did not function properly. Some
polling places in Alameda County experienced the same problem
but had paper ballots on hand for voters.
For the March election, California counties fielded 42,720
electronic voting machines, in theory allowing 42 percent of
the state's voters to vote on touchscreens or on paper ballots
scanned into computers.
In addition to its recommendation for new electronic voting
machines, the panel said existing machines other than those
supplied by a subsidiary of Diebold Inc. also should be
required to print a paper trail of votes, or counties with the
machines must offer voters paper ballots.
The panel voted last week to recommend that California
counties not use Diebold Election Systems Inc. machines after
finding they failed to work as expected in the March election.
The panel recommended that California Secretary of State
Kevin Shelley decertify the subsidiary's AcuVote-TSx Voting
System for use in California and recommended its findings
should be referred to the state's Attorney General for possible
civil and criminal charges.
An aide to Shelley, who since last year has urged that
touchscreen machines produce paper records of votes, said the
Secretary of State could act on the panel's recommendations by
the end of the week.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited.