Representative Jake Zimmerman (D – 83) introduced a bill to change Missouri election law yesterday:
HB 499 Changes the laws regarding the use of paper ballots at elections
Sponsor: Zimmerman, Jake (83) Proposed Effective Date: 08/28/2009
CoSponsor: Colona, Mike (67) ……….etal. LR Number: 1035L.01I
Last Action: 01/29/2009 – Introduced and Read First Time (H)
Next Hearing: Hearing not scheduled
House Calendar HOUSE BILLS FOR SECOND READING
The bill language is straightforward:
FIRST REGULAR SESSION
95TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
INTRODUCED BY REPRESENTATIVES ZIMMERMAN (Sponsor), COLONA, LAMPE, McCLANAHAN, LeVOTA, SCHOELLER, HUGHES, TALBOY, WILSON (119), WETER, WELLS, SKAGGS, FALLERT, LOW, MUNZLINGER, DAY, SCHIEFFER, MORRIS, GRILL, HOLSMAN, KANDER, PACE, WALTON GRAY, SCAVUZZO, CHAPPELLE-NADAL, OXFORD, KIRKTON, ROORDA, McNEIL, YAEGER, SCHAAF, SCHUPP, ATKINS, STORCH AND WEBB (Co-sponsors).
1035L.01I D. ADAM CRUMBLISS, Chief Clerk
To amend chapter 115, RSMo, by adding thereto one new section relating to ballots.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, as follows:
Section A. Chapter 115, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 115.428, to read as follows:
115.428. 1. For each election in which a state or federal office or measure is on the ballot, each individual who is eligible to cast a vote in the election shall be offered the opportunity to cast their vote using a paper ballot card. It shall be the responsibility of each election authority to provide a sufficient number of paper ballot cards to comply with this section.
2. Any paper ballot card which is cast by an individual under this section shall be counted and otherwise treated as a regular ballot for all purposes, unless the individual casting the ballot would have otherwise been required to cast a provisional ballot.
3. The election authority at each location where ballots are cast shall post in a conspicuous place a notice stating that paper ballot cards are available at that location and that a voter may request to use such a ballot. Such notice shall be printed by the secretary of state as part of the voting instructions required by section 115.417 and provided to the local election authorities.
4. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 115.063, the direct cost incurred by an election authority for the actual physical printing of a sufficient number of paper ballot cards to comply with this section and section 115.247 for all elections in which a state or federal office or measure is on the ballot shall be paid by the state in the manner provided for in section 115.077.
That’s right, it would require that voters be given the right to request a paper ballot. Why is that so important (aside from the mistrust of electronic touch screen machines in the popular culture)?
First, lets take a look at an excerpt from recount procedures from the Missouri Secretary of State’s office (DRE is the terminology for a touch screen voting machine. LEA is the “local election authority”.):
…Ballot counting – DREs
NOTE: Only the LEA, LEA staff, and the bipartisan teams will conduct the recount, without additional assistance. Everyone else may observe, but may not handle the paper trails, containers, and DREs.
1. The LEA shall break the seal on the DRE component that contains the voter verified paper audit trail and retrieve the paper trail.
2. The voter verified paper trail shall be examined by the bipartisan team and the votes hand tallied for the State Representative, District 121 race using a separate tally sheet. The results will be recorded on the tally summary sheet (form provided) and added to the final results in the Report of Findings.
3. In the event that the voter verified paper trail is not usable for the recount, the LEA shall next use the audit trail* from each DRE that was created contemporaneously with the voter verified paper trail (*as defined in 15 CSR 30-10.010), and proceed with the process described in #2. The LEA shall then separately seal and secure any such DRE component for possible further inspection.
Let me spell it out for you. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office has a provision in its recount procedures which addresses the failure of the “voter verified paper trail” in an electronic device. That is, if it is not possible to use the printout that the voter used at the time they voted to verify their vote (and in a sense the direct artifact to the voter’s wishes is gone) then the recount must rely on an electronic record reproduced internally from the electronic machine. In addition, the procedures call for sealing the machine for possible future inspection if that internal audit rather than the voter verified paper trail is used.
A paper ballot is a direct artifact from the voter. We keep hearing that touchscreen machines allow us convenience. Try telling that to someone who has had to wait in line to use a machine. All you need to increase the volume of voters executing their vote at any one time on a paper ballot is more pens/pencils and a flat surface.
For the purposes of voter intent the only irrecoverable single point of failure on a paper ballot is the actual voter. They can and will sometimes screw it up, but ultimately it is their screw up. If the optical scanner fails then we still have the actual ballot which can be counted by hand.
Electronic machines can and do fail. If we have multiple points of failure and things get screwed up what would we have to do then?
From personal experience I will always chose a paper ballot if I have the option. If I ever lose that option you can bet I’ll scream bloody murder until I get it back.