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Washington Post on HR 811

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The Washington Post isn’t into Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) election reform bill. A Washington Post editoral today says that “paper trals, external audits and stronger accessibility requirements for federal elections” are “important goals,” but that HR811 is too strict on deadlines and audits the bill calls for.

The bill requires all states by November 2008 to have some type of paper trail on votes cast.

[snip]

Even if states meet the 2008 deadline, the requisite haste and corner-cutting could produce their own missteps; the bill might inadvertently cause more disenfranchisement than it would solve. If Congress is going to order a complete overhaul of elections nationwide, it should give states enough time to do it right. The bill also requires states to purchase by 2012 voting technology that is not yet on the market; pushing back the 2008 deadline might thus keep states from having to buy new equipment twice.

[snip]

Changing the 2008 deadlines — or at least providing waivers for states that are really in trouble — and loosening the audit requirements would be good fixes to the House bill. A similar but less publicized bill, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), embraces the same principles as the House bill but with more flexibility.

The rules for conducting post-election audits in Holt’s bill are on Thomas. So is info on Feinstein’s bill, S 1487. After the jump, the part from HR 811 which explains how many ballots will be counted in a post-election audit.

`SEC. 322. NUMBER OF BALLOTS COUNTED UNDER AUDIT.

`(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), the number of voter-verified paper ballots which will be subject to a hand count administered by the Election Auditor of a State under this subtitle with respect to an election shall be determined as follows:

`(1) In the event that the unofficial count as described in section 323(a)(1) reveals that the margin of victory between the two candidates receiving the largest number of votes in the election is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast in that election, the hand counts of the voter-verified paper ballots shall occur in at least 10 percent of all precincts or equivalent locations (or alternative audit units used in accordance with the method provided for under subsection (b)) in the Congressional district involved (in the case of an election for the House of Representatives) or the State (in the case of any other election for Federal office).

`(2) In the event that the unofficial count as described in section 323(a)(1) reveals that the margin of victory between the two candidates receiving the largest number of votes in the election is greater than or equal to 1 percent but less than 2 percent of the total votes cast in that election, the hand counts of the voter-verified paper ballots shall occur in at least 5 percent of all precincts or equivalent locations (or alternative audit units used in accordance with the method provided for under subsection (b)) in the Congressional district involved (in the case of an election for the House of Representatives) or the State (in the case of any other election for Federal office).

`(3) In the event that the unofficial count as described in section 323(a)(1) reveals that the margin of victory between the two candidates receiving the largest number of votes in the election is equal to or greater than 2 percent of the total votes cast in that election, the hand counts of the voter-verified paper ballots shall occur in at least 3 percent of all precincts or equivalent locations (or alternative audit units used in accordance with the method provided for under subsection (b)) in the Congressional district involved (in the case of an election for the House of Representatives) or the State (in the case of any other election for Federal office).

`(b) Use of Alternative Mechanism- Notwithstanding subsection (a), a State may adopt and apply an alternative mechanism to determine the number of voter-verified paper ballots which will be subject to the hand counts required under this subtitle with respect to an election, so long as the alternative mechanism uses the voter-verified paper ballots to conduct the audit and the National Institute of Standards and Technology determines that the alternative mechanism will be at least as statistically effective in ensuring the accuracy of the election results as the procedure under this subtitle.

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