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HAVA and HR 811 - Voting Machines' Impact on Minority Communities

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Message Teresa Hommel


HAVA and HR811 --

Voting Machines’ Impact on Minority Communities

Report by Teresa Hommel

Chair, Task Force on Election Integrity, Community Church of NY



The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) required all states to provide voting devices in each poll site to enable voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently, and authorized the use of federal monies for states to purchase new equipment.


HAVA money has been used to purchase two kinds of new systems:

  • Paper ballot voting systems, consisting of paper ballots, optical scanners, and accessible ballot marking devices, or
  • Electronic voting machines, known as touchscreens or DREs (Direct Recording Electronic machines).


HAVA spurred a nationwide grassroots election integrity movement to fight the use of DREs because DREs conceal vote-handling, insider tampering, outsider hacking, as well as innocent errors. DREs shut out the community and prevent citizens from participating in election procedures. No one can witness, understand, or attest to the honesty of vote-handling and vote-counting that take place inside DREs.


Problems with DREs have had a greater impact on minorities. For example, when New Mexico switched from DREs to paper ballots in 2006, minority undervote rates plummeted as much as 85%.[1]


1. Evidence now shows that DREs are capable of ethnic profiling when voters select a non-English language for the display of their ballot on the touchscreen, and DREs may lose the votes intended to be cast on such ballots.[2]

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Teresa Hommel is a voting activist in NY and chair of the Task Force On Voting Integrity, Community Church of New York.
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