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High Leverage Proposals for Electoral and Political Transformation


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by Tom Atlee

June 2003





Handle actual election-day corruption and uncertainties with voter-verified paper trails and open source software. Problems with "hanging chads" and computerized voting machines have raised doubts about the legitimacy of some election returns. Proprietary programs for "touchscreen" electronic voting that leave no "paper trail" (paper record of votes) and that are not open to inspection leave elections vulnerable to massive and unprovable fraud (of which there is already some evidence <>). The Federal Government is encouraging states to upgrade to computerized systems. Efforts to track these developments at the state level are underway at such sites as <>.

Some people insist, with some justification, that only old-fashioned paper ballots, marked with a pen and counted the old way, are secure. Others say that computerized voting can be done securely and dependably. An excellent approach to this was recently introduced in the House of Representatives (although there is not yet any comparable Senate bill):

Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003" (H.R. 2239) requires that all electronic voting have a voter-verified paper trail, no undisclosed software or wireless communications devices, and mandatory surprise recounts in 0.5% of the jurisdictions. It also requires that non-electronic ballots be used if these provisions are not in place for the November 2004 elections. See article at <> and read the actual bill text at <>.

On 5/22/2003 this bill was referred to the House Committee on House Administration (which has jurisdiction over electoral reform bills). Its members are
CA - John T. Doolittle (R-CA)
CA - Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA)
CT - John B. Larson (D-CT) Ranking Democrat
FL - John L. Mica (R-FL)
GA - John Linder (R-GA)
MI - Vernon J. Ehlers, (R-MI)
NY - Thomas M. Reynolds (R-NY)
PA - Robert Brady (D-PA)
OH - Robert W. Ney (R-OH) Chairman
You can go to their websites via and check them out and, if you wish, contact them. Since congresspeople tend to listen most to their own constituents (rather than outsiders, unless they have sizable campaign contributions to offer), you might also think about who you know in these states and let them know about this

The bill's co-sponsors so far are
CA - Lynn Woolsey
CA - Barbara Lee
FL - Robert Wexler
MD - Chris Van Hollen
MI - John Conyers, Jr.
NY - Maurice Hinchey
OH - Marcy Kaptur
WA - Brian Baird
If your Congressperson isn't on this list, you might ask why. Contact your Congressperson and Senators -- and Presidential candidates -- on this key issue.

For more information about how to support this bill, including contacting the state committees responsible for buying the new computerized voting systems, see <>

Alan Kay offers an additional verification method called Sunshine Voting in which voters using an electronic voting system get a printed copy of their filled-in ballot with an anonymous identification code. All votes would then be openly but anonymously listed (along with their ID codes) the next day in publicly accessible media at the precinct level, along with the official tally. Any voter could go to the Web, to their library or to their local newspaper to verify the inclusion and accuracy of their own vote in this public record, and anyone could verify the tally. A detailed description of this method and related innovations is available at <>.

To counter electronic ballot stuffing (i.e., the computer being programmed to add in unprinted electronic ballots from imaginary voters), this system could be set up so that each voter got two printed ballot copies, one to keep and one to put in a traditional ballot box. The ballot box copies would also enable voting to proceed by hand on paper ballots if there were serious computer/printer malfunctions in the middle of the electoral process.