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No Black Box Voting
AUGUSTA - The Legislature's Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear testimony Tuesday on a bill that would regulate the use of electronic voting machines to ensure that voters can trust the results they tabulate and to avoid some of the controversies and problems that have arisen in other states surrounding the use of the machines.
The bill, LD 1759, An Act to Ensure the Accurate Counting of Votes, would require that touch-screen voting machines also produce a paper ballot— or receipt— that would allow the voter to ensure their vote was recorded correctly and would also serve as a backup in case of recounts.
The hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 436 of the State House.
In states such as California and Maryland that have started using touch-screen electronic voting machines extensively, when results have been called into question, there has been no way to double-check the tabulations of the machines since there is no paper copy of the votes cast.
Maine does not have any of the computerized voting machines as yet, but larger municipalities might well consider the new technology, Pingree said. And she wants to make sure before they spend money on the machines that the state sets rules that will serve as guidelines for those municipalities when they purchase the equipment.
"Maine is a state where people feel confident that their vote will count," Pingree said. "We have one of the highest voter turnouts in the country because people understand the importance of every vote counting. If touch-screen voting machines are introduced, we need to make sure that voters have the same confidence that their votes will count. The Legislature should take a proactive step to make sure this happens."
In other states there have been questions about poll workers accidentally entering absentee ballots more than once and about some machines not being kept in a secure place to prevent tampering. With current technologies, it is possible to recount paper ballots to verify the results. With copmuterized machines that store the data electronically, there is no way to check the results.
"I am personally familiar with problems with the accuracy of machine voting," said Senator Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, a co-sponsor of the bill. "I know that votes in my district were not counted in a very close election— and it may have not made the difference— but there is no reason that we should disenfranchise anyone because of technological problems. I think this bill will ensure that with future voting technologies, like electronic voting machines, all votes will be counted."
Other co-sponsors of the bill include: Senate President Beverly Daggett, D-Kennebec; Speaker of the House Patrick Colwell, D-Gardiner; and Republican Reps. Steve Bowen of Rockport and Richard Rosen of Bucksport.
"We've watched the experience of other states dealing with this after the fact," Pingree said. "'We want to avoid those headaches, and the potential threat to people's trust in the sanctity of their vote by addressing this before it becomes a problem."
Congress is considering legislation to address the issue on a national level, though it is unclear how quickly or whether that will move forward. California has recently announced that it will update its electronic voting machines to print out paper receipts.
The full text of the bill can be found by visiting The State of Maine Legislature online and entering the bill number, 1759.
Rep. Hannah Pingree, 867-2336
Casey Johnson, Legislative Aide, 287-1430
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