Iowa Citizen Groups Applaud Paper Ballot Legislation

March 20, 2008

By Common Cause and Iowans for Voting Integrity      Press Release - Iowans for Voting Integrity and Common Cause applauded the state House of Representatives' passage of Senate File 2347 Thursday night by a 92-6 vote. The bill requires all counties to use optical scan voting systems in the November election. Last week, the measure passed the Iowa Senate 47-1.

“Along with Iowans statewide, we are relieved to know that one more step has been taken to ensure all Iowans that their vote will be counted fairly and accurately,” said Kyle Lobner, Common Cause Iowa Organizer.

The bill requires all counties to purchase optical scan voting systems in time for the November election, and provides funding for the transition. With optical scan systems, voters mark individual paper ballots by hand or by using an accessible device for voters with disabilities. The paper ballots are then read by an optical scanner and can be recounted by hand. Seventy-eight Iowa counties will be trading in touch screen electronic voting machines as part of the switch.
“The beauty of an optical scan system is that you can get quick, machine-counted results right away, but you can also go back and hand-count enough of the paper ballots to verify that the scanners were properly programmed,” said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity. “We are heartened to see a bipartisan push for this measure, as well as the broad support it has from counties and elections officials.” Groups lobbying for the bill included the Iowa State Association of Counties and the Iowa State Association of County Supervisors.

IVI and Common Cause now plan to push for legislation to require routine hand audits of the paper ballots to check the electronic tallies. Even with paper ballots, the vote totals are almost always generated by computer scanners. Last year, a panel of computer scientists that included Microsoft's former security chief Howard Schmidt, University of Iowa voting machine expert Douglas Jones, and scientists from Stanford, MIT, and other institutions concluded that all types of voting equipment used in the United States are vulnerable to error or fraud. Unless election administrators hand-count a sample of ballots to check the electronic tallies, paper ballots “are of questionable security value.”

“When a team of the best computer security experts in the world in the world tells us we need to hand count a sample of ballots to be confident of election results, we'd better listen,” Flaherty said.