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Senators Feinstein & Bennett Announce Agreement on Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform

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 an agreement on 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, titled the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act, is the culmination of extensive efforts over several months by the two senators to craft an election technology bill capable of achieving broad support from members of both parties.

“An accurate, reliable and transparent method to cast and count votes is fundamental to the democratic process.  But we now have a patchwork of voting systems throughout the country, including five states that use electronic voting systems but have no independent records to help ensure the accuracy and reliability of the vote, and eleven others in which large sections of their states use electronic systems that have no such independent records,” Senator Feinstein said.

“I thank Senator Bennett for working so carefully with me.  I believe our bill would be a major step forward in improving the accessibility and integrity of our nation’s elections.”

“Advances in voting technology have greatly enhanced the accessibility and efficiency of our elections,” Senator Bennett said. “This bill will ensure that electronic voting systems meet the highest security standards and increase the confidence of the American people in the election process. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Feinstein on this important legislation.”

Senators Feinstein and Bennett plan to introduce the bill in the coming weeks and hold a hearing on the measure next month.

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 requested a waiver until January 1, 2014. 

In addition to its independent verification requirement,  the bill would instruct each state to conduct public audits to ensure the accuracy of election results.  The bill would direct the Election Assistance Commission to develop model audit guidelines. 

The legislation contains several provisions relating to election security, including chain of custody procedures for the handling of voting systems and election records; election-dedicated software disclosure requirements; and instructions for states to develop contingency plans in the event of national or local emergencies or widespread voting system failures.  States would also be required to establish minimum standards to improve the integrity of the voting process at the polling place, poll worker education and training, and ballot designs. 

The bill also includes a research grant program to help spur development and testing of new independent verification technologies.  Finally, the bill includes provisions to ensure military and overseas voters have their ballots counted.