Markowitz urges Committee to support ballot reform

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(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz urged members of the U.S. Senate Rules Committee today to support ballot reform legislation as long as the bill doesn’t create new unfunded mandates for the states.

The legislation would require a paper trail for all electronic voting systems by 2010.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Congress is looking at this issue because there are a number of states that use electronic voting systems that don’t include any kind of paper verification of a ballot.

As a result, there are no paper ballots to tabulate in the event of a recount – instead election officials would re-tabulate the electronic vote tallies.

Markowitz is the past president of the National Secretaries of State Association. In her testimony at the Senate hearing, she supported the basic concept of the proposed legislation.

She noted that Vermont is one of the few states that wouldn’t be affected by the bill because all towns either use a hand counted paper ballot system or an optical scan machine where voters mark their choices on a paper ballot.

Markowitz expressed some concerns about the legislation. She urged the committee to provide sufficient funds to properly implement the bill. That’s something Markowitz says didn’t happen several years ago with the passage of an election reform law known as the Help America Vote Act.

(Markowitz) "The shortfall has caused many states to make very difficult decisions about how to fund costly new programs and equipment. We ask that you make this a priority. Full funding for the changes that you’re seeking on the state level are really necessary for success in our implementation."

(Kinzel) Markowitz says it would also be a mistake for Congress to pass a law that imposes a one size fits all approach for all states to follow.

(Markowitz) "It’s important to remember that every state faces different challenges as it seeks to improve the administration of elections and meet the mandates of existing state and federal law. We believe that federal legislation should not curtail sate innovation and authority solely for the sake of creating uniform methods among the states."

(Kinzel) Markowitz also encouraged the Senate committee to give states enough time to implement any new law. She says the 2010 election would be the earliest that a new system could be put into place.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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