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Facts about HAVA with Notes re Bucks County

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Facts about HAVA with Notes re Application to Bucks County

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA)1, passed by Congress in the Fall 2002, was an attempt to prevent problems like those encountered in the 2000 Presidential election. It offered funding for counties to upgrade their voting systems. One of its few mandates was to require voting methods that would allow the disabled to vote independently. As states and localities rush to comply with HAVA, many decision-makers are operating on common misunderstandings of the law. The sections below provide facts that correct some of the major misconceptions.

 

HAVA Does Not Require the Use of DREs2 (Direct Record Electronic / electronic voting machines)

Section 301(a)(3) of HAVA requires that each polling place provide at least one voting method that allows disabled individuals to vote in privacy. Accessibility is required; DREs are not.

(3) Accessibility for individuals with disabilities.—The voting system shall—

(A) be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters;

(B) satisfy the requirement of subparagraph (A) through the use of at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities at each polling place; and Voting systems that record votes electronically (Direct Record Electronic – DRE) are only one of the many available voting systems that provide accessibility for disabled individuals. Alternative voting systems that allow the disabled to vote unassisted are available and cost a fraction of the price of DREs. For example:

Electronic ballot-marking devices, such as the AutoMark by ES&S.3  Ballot templates (tactile ballots) like those used in Europe and Rhode Island.4 Free ballot-printing software offered by Open Voting Consortium.5

 

HAVA Does Not Prohibit Punch Card and Lever Systems

A common misconception is that HAVA bans the use of old voting systems. This is not true, although old systems must be supplemented with ballots that allow disabled individuals to vote independently and they must provide a manual audit capacity. (Coalition for Voting Integrity note: We believe levers fulfill the HAVA definition regarding manual audit capacity since HAVA defines audit as including procedures, not just information from the machine but all external procedures used in the election process. We manually write figures from machines and this has been legally accepted  and has served as source for any recount check. This info has been verified with Congressional legal Counsel expert on HAVA and other experts. The states of NY and Conn. appear to agree. Their counties have been given option to retain levers till at least 2007, as long as handicapped access is put in each polling place. If Bucks installed optical scanner with Automark attachment, we would have handicapped-access machine that other voters could also use. Handicapped just get immediate priority voting.

 

Since optical scan is very fast, Bucks County could reduce lines substantially as a by-product. This equipment also could be rented and could serve as a test of optical scanning, which also satisfies having a voter-verifiable ballot that can be used for recount as well as random system audit, which is likely to become a requirement by law either in PA or federally. Most states now mandate the voter-verified paper ballot and random audit. PA is one of just a few left not presently mandating, but it is needed. Also, Miami-Dade is throwing out $24 million of touch screen machines and replacing with optical scanning for reasons of costs and reliability.)

 

A state must replace old systems only if it accepts (and does not return) Title I funds to upgrade voting systems.

Then, according to Section 102(a)(3), the deadlines for replacing the punch card and lever systems are: Before the first general federal election after January 1, 2004. Or, before the first general federal election after January 1, 2006, if the state filed a waiver by January 1, 2004. This applies to almost all states. While state legislation, executive orders, or judicial orders require certain jurisdictions to replace their punch cards or lever systems (CVI note: not PA), HAVA does not make that requirement. In fact, HAVA Section 301(a)(1)(B) specifically allows the use of punch card systems in conjunction with an educational program to help prevent over-voting and teach voters how to correct their ballots.

                

1 http://www.fec.gov/hava/law_ext.txt

2 Direct Recording Electronic voting machine. Votes are recorded on electronic media rather than paper.

3 http://www.essvote.com/HTML/home.html; see page 50 of this document

4 http://www.electionaccess.org/Bp/Ballot_Templates.htm; see page 52 of this document

5 http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/; see page 52 of this document

Source: Myth Breakers: Facts about Electronic Elections, www.VotersUnite.Org; notes by Coalition for Voting Integrity, www.CoalitionforVotingIntegrity.org.

 

Bottom Line: We strongly believe as do many others that the only deterrents to keeping levers are (1) you'd have to return Title I money and (2) you still have to provide one handicapped-accessible system per precinct. (You get funds for this.) We ask Governor Rendell or the Secretary of the Commonwealth to provide passages from HAVA that prove otherwise. Time is of the essence!

Please print and distribute in PA if you want to keep levers for the time being.

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