Holding Politicians and the Ballot Box Accountable
I’ll let you in on a deep, dark secret about your 10th District State Representative – the guy flat out loves campaigning. Whether going door to door talking to constituents, meeting and greeting folks at town forums, or waving to the Maple Leaf parade crowds from the perch of my 1949 Model B John Deere, I truly enjoy the campaign season. It’s a time for visiting local fairs and events and catching up with acquaintances. It’s a time for great food and drink. But most importantly, it’s a time for engaging others and finding out what they think are the critical issues of the day.
Given that backdrop, however, I must also tell you that there are a couple of things about Kansas elections that I am not particularly fond of: 1) electronic voting machines and 2) political “robo” calls. Let’s talk about the robo calls first. Given the strong outcry from citizens across the state following the November 2006 elections, I (along with many other Kansas legislators) introduced bills to get rid of those annoying automated calls that seemed to tie up household telephone lines the entire week-end prior to the election. I do believe there will be a significant reduction, if not outright elimination, of these types of calls during the next election cycle. But I also believe that a much more potentially devastating situation exists that has had very little publicity. And that concerns our state’s use of electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper audit trail.
Kansas is one of 15 states that use electronic voting machines in at least one jurisdiction that do not require a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). A VVPAT is a device that produces a paper record of each electronic ballot that can be reviewed by the voter prior to submitting his / her ballot. House Bill 2259, a bill I introduced earlier this session, would require county elections offices that use electronic voting machines to be equipped with a VVPAT no later than January 1st, 2008. The bill would also prohibit the Secretary of State from purchasing any electronic voting machines that do not include VVPATS and from spending any funds on electronic voting machines unless they are equipped with VVPATs.
I have submitted this legislation in response to highly publicized problems with electronic voting machines; the most recent event occurred in Sarasota, Florida where there were 18,000 undervotes in the Congressional election this past fall. In another example, a report on the May 2006 primary election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio from the Election Science Institute found the electronic voting machines’ four sources of vote totals — individual ballots, paper trail summary, election archives and memory cards — didn’t even match up. The totals were all different, and the report concluded that relying on the current system for Cuyahoga County’s more than 1.3 million people should be viewed as “a calculated risk.” And these problems are not simply recent phenomena; during the 2004 presidential election, one voting machine in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb reportedly added nearly 3,900 additional votes to President Bush’s total. Officials caught the machine’s error only because 638 voters cast presidential ballots at that precinct.
We must do everything in our powers to restore the public’s confidence in the voting process by helping to ensure that every vote cast is recorded accurately. Kansans that vote on electronic voting machines deserve to have a paper audit trail. Only then will they know that their vote has truly counted.
* * *
Thank you for letting me serve as your State Representative. I always appreciate knowing where you stand on the issues our state is currently facing. I can be reached at (785) 296-7668 (daytime) or (785) 865-2786 (evenings). My e-mail address is email@example.com. Also, if you would like to be added to my e-mail newsletter mailing list, please send me your e-mail address.