‘A Victory for Democracy’
“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 TrueVoteMD.org 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.
“TrueVoteMD.org 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.