Calif. to require paper audit trail for e-voting

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week requiring that all electronic voting systems produce a voter-verified paper audit trail by January 2006.

SB 1438, signed by the governor Sept. 28, requires that all voting systems approved after January 2005 by the California Secretary of State have a paper audit trail feature. It also prohibits counties from buying a voting system after January 2006, if the system does not include an accessible paper audit trail.

While elections officials and voting experts have acknowledged the need to verify votes cast on touch-screen machines, they remain divided over how it is to be done. Some argue that paper is the only way to back up electronic systems if a recount is required. Others say storing data on electronic storage devices can do it.

Touch-screen machines are a type of direct recording electronic system. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 provides federal funding to modernize voting systems. Fourteen counties in the state have converted to direct recording electronic systems, but 13 counties still use punch-card ballots.

The bill was one of four election-reform measures signed into law by Schwarzenegger. The other bills would improve voting system security and impose stronger penalties on those that compromise the integrity of the voting process, move the date of the state's primary from March to June beginning in 2006 and allow military personnel serving overseas to return voted absentee ballots by fax.

The bills are key to the safety, security and integrity of the California election system, said Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who supported all four of the measures.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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