"The voting system shall produce or require the use of an individual voter-verified paper record of the voter's vote..."
So begins House Resolution 550. It is worth looking at this phrase carefully. The "system" produces a record of the "voter's vote." We are immediately tied to "the system," the very same system that produces incomprehensible results all over the country in a variety of ways. The key to H.R. 550 is that it ties citizens to "the system," one which they trust so little we see snap polls like those on Lou Dobbs showing that well over 80% of respondents favor dumping voting machines of all types entirely and returning to paper.
The primary objection to H.R. 550 is that it puts "lipstick on the pig" that is HAVA. That legislation was cleverly written with the intent of pushing localities into electronic voting with touch screens (DRE's). There is little doubt as to this when you review Section 301 which says clearly
A) be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters;
(B) satisfy the requirement of subparagraph (A) through the use of at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities at each polling place; and ...
(C) if purchased with funds made available under title II [42 USCS 15321 et seq.] on or after January 1, 2007, meet the voting system standards for disability access (as outlined in this paragraph).
SEC. 301. VOTING SYSTEMS STANDARDS. (a)(3)
So here you have it. Local officials looking at optical scan, touch screen or paper ballots, all of which are commonly thought to be allowed under HAVA, can take a valuable "get out of jail free card" indemnifying them from law suits from either federal authorities or advocates for the handicapped if they simply order DREs. As attorney and clean election advocate Paul Lehto points out, this type of advantage is one that a local counsel would find irresistible. The extra cost for machines is a good investment in protection from lawsuits.
DRE's take votes, cause ballots to disappear, and provide no reliable means of determining what actually happens to votes. On the basis of this shaky foundation, the results of elections are aggregated and winners declared. H.R. 550 simply adds a cosmetic touch by giving us a variety of paper receipts which may or may not be the "ballots of record" (probably not) and that can certainly not be used to overturn an election unless counted in whole when questions arise. Were there a count of the entirety of receipts, there would be no need for the machines to produce them in the first place; we would have hand counted paper ballots.
Public confidence in our elections is at an all time low with recent polls showing 40% of some samples answering yes to the question, "Was the 2004 election stolen?" This is just the tip of the iceberg of public distrust leading to a meltdown of any confidence in the validity of election results at all levels.
Michael Collins is a voting rights advocate and writer. He is the editor of the election fraud web site, www.ElectionFraudNews.com. He has written articles on a number of topics for "Scoop" Independent News including: The Disenfranchisement Of Katrina's Survivors; The Unanswered Question: Who Really Won In 2004?; Secret Vote Counting, a scathing critique of HAVA; and Kennedy's Challenge, a detailed response to Salon's attack on the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. article on stolen election 2004. He is politically active in his state.