Press Releases

Senators Feinstein & Bennett Introduce Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act

- Legislation would help ensure the accuracy, security and accessibility of voting systems -

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bob Bennett (R-UT), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, today announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would require electronic voting systems used in federal elections to produce an independent voter-verified record of each ballot cast.  

“The bill is the culmination of extensive efforts over several months to come together to craft a bipartisan election technology bill capable of achieving broad support from members of both parties. Our bill is a significant step forward in improving the accessibility and integrity of our nation’s elections,” Senator Feinstein said. “Currently we have a patchwork of voting systems throughout the country, including states that use electronic voting systems but have no independent records to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the votes cast. The ability to ensure there is an accurate, reliable and transparent method for Americans to cast and count votes is fundamental to our democratic process.”

“This bill will help increase voter confidence in the election process by ensuring that our electronic voting systems meet the highest security standards,” said Senator Bennett. “I am especially pleased that the bill encourages continued innovation and development in the field of election technology.”

Under the Act, voters casting their ballots using direct recording electronic (touch screen) voting systems would be able to simultaneously verify their choices by means of an independent paper, electronic, audio, video, or pictorial record.  Such records would be auditable and would also be available for review in the event of a recount.  The effective date for implementing this requirement would be January 1, 2012, unless a state obtains a waiver until January 1, 2014.  

A hearing on this bill, S.3212, is expected next month in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Following is a summary of the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act:

INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION OF BALLOTS

  • Requires electronic voting systems to provide for the independent verification of each ballot cast by means of a paper, electronic, audio, video, pictorial or other independently produced record.  
  • Requires implementation by January 1, 2012 with the option of a waiver until January 1, 2014.

AUDITS

  • Requires each state to amend its state plan to establish procedures for conducting audits of federal elections.
  • Requires the Election Assistance Commission to develop model audit guidelines.  

ELECTION SECURITY

  • Requires chain of custody protocols for voting systems, components and records.
  • Requires voting system software to be disclosed and subject to review under certain circumstances, with procedures in place to ensure the protection of trade secrets and intellectual property rights.
  • Requires each state to establish standards for ensuring the integrity of the voting process, developing emergency contingency plans, and training poll workers.  

TESTING and CERTIFICATION

  • Requires testing laboratories to meet conflict-of-interest standards and establish procedures for voting system certification and testing, including assigning testing laboratories on a random basis.

RESEARCH and DEVELOPMENT

  • Provides $30 million in grants for research, development and testing of independent verification technologies.  

PAYMENTS TO STATES

  • Authorizes such sums as necessary for states to carry out the requirements of the act, with funding distributed in accordance with formulas set forth in the Help America Vote Act.
  • Establishes a task force to recommend the appropriate level of funding.

MILITARY and OVERSEAS VOTERS

  • Prohibits states from rejecting voter registration forms, absentee ballot requests and absentee ballots submitted by military and overseas voters that lack non-essential information.

BALLOT LAYOUT DESIGN

  • Requires each state to establish procedures for improving ballot design, taking into consideration guidance provided by the EAC.  

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