A victory in Maryland

See Mary Kiraly’s commentary below.

Maryland Passes Paper Ballot Bill
‘A Victory for Democracy’

Annapolis, Maryland. In the closing hours of the 2007 legislative session, a four year effort to require paper ballots for Maryland’s voting system passed the House and the Senate unanimously. The bill, SB 392/HB18, requires a voter-verified paper trail to be implemented in 2010.

“This is a victory for democracy in Maryland. Thousands of voters who worked to make this a reality are celebrating tonight,” said Shazia Anwar, Director of the election watchdog group that spearheaded efforts for a paper ballot. “We crossed a major hurdle tonight, now we have to make sure the bill is fully implemented.”

Last week it looked there was no chance a bill would pass in 2007, but consistent citizen pressure — emails, phone calls and voter visits — let the Senate leadership know this was an issue of utmost importance to Maryland voters. “We’re very pleased elected officials in both Houses decided this was the year to put in place a voter verified paper record that could used independent audits and meaningful recounts” said Anwar.

“ was founded four years ago in order to create elections that voters in Maryland could trust,” said Linda Schade, founder of TrueVoteMD. “I’m pleased that we’ve made significant progress tonight.”

The final bill ensures that any new voting system certified for use must include a voter verified paper record. The bill requires an optically scannable paper ballot marked by hand or with the help of a ballot marking device. The final bill also ensures that disabled voters will be able to vote independently and privately. The bill is expected to save Maryland taxpayer money as studies have shown that operating costs for optical scanning equipment are 30% to 40% lower than the cost of Maryland’s current touchscreen machines.

The final step for enactment of the bill into law is the signature of Governor Martin O’Malley. O’Malley has expressed support for a voter verified paper ballot during his gubernatorial campaign. A poll conducted by the State Board of Election last year found that 69% of Maryland voters supported a paper trail.

Maryland was one of the first states to use electronic voting machines and is one of the last to require a voter verified paper ballot.
Twenty-seven states require either a voter verified paper ballot or a paper ballot based system and seven other states do not use electronic voting machines. Over 30 states use optical scan systems 50% will vote on them in 2008.


*22 states require voting machines to produce a VVPAT *(AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, HI, ID, IL, ME, MO, MT, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, UT, WA, WV, WI)
*5 states require paper-based ballot systems* (MI, MN, NH, NM, VT) *Of the 22 states that require voting machines to produce a VVPAT, 17 use electronic voting machines in at least one jurisdiction *(AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, IL, MO, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, UT, WA, WV, WI) *while 5 do not use any electronic voting machines *(CT, ID, ME, MT, OR).
*15 states and the District of Columbia use electronic voting machines in at least one jurisdiction and do not require VVPATs *(DE, DC, FL, GA, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WY)
*7 states do not use any electronic voting machines and do not have any regulations requiring VVPATs *(AL, MA*, NE, ND, OK, RI, SD)
Notes: Mississippi, does not require VVPATs but in the 77 counties that received electronic voting machines in 2005, the machines produce a VVPAT.
Massachusetts is in the process of selecting an accessible voting system.

In the eleventh hour of the final day of the session, the voter-verified ballots legislation passed, in a series of unanimous votes in the Maryland General Assembly. This is huge for the nation, as you know, because Maryland is one of a small number of states that is currently statewide with paperless DREs.
There are a number of important messages that I will be attempting to write up at length today- because what happened in Maryland paralleled what is going on in the national effort on the Holt Bill. Some of what we learned may not be welcome because it challenges what some of us go into the process believing should happen.
I can say in brief that the activism that raises the level of understanding of the problem (discussion groups and mass email efforts) are important in the beginning of the process. But this is a relay and not a sprint. To get to final passage of legislation, that makes dramatic change, requires access to leadership in the legislature and cooperation and compromise. At that stage, the grassroots component, if continuing to use mass-messaging techniques and heated discussion groups that tend to be critical and accusatory, can actually damage the opportunity to produce the desired legislative outcome.
Another important message- and one that national groups are hotly debating- is that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. When the momentum of a highly-charged grassroots effort, certain of the rightness of its cause and convinced of the solution to the problem, runs up against the legislative process, there is frustration and anger on both sides.
What was able to be accomplished at the end of the Maryland calendar happened by a series of both lucky breaks and careful preparation. It required being in the right place at the right time. It required having helpful information about cost-effectiveness, system comparisons, and credible data from other states about what has worked. Those conversations provide light rather than heat- while recognizing that heat raises the issue on the agenda at the beginning of the process.
It was also important to have the local affiliates of the large national progressive organizations on board, actively participating in a coalition effort. These organizations have lobbyists with established relationships with legislators over a variety of issue areas. To disparage the contribution of these organizations, which are savvy about the legislative process, can be the tactical equivalent of “eating our young.”
All of this and more is reflected in the Maryland case study. I think there is plenty here for others to also be analyzing.
My best, Mark,

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