Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Monday, June 13
 
Back in the Saddle
With my vacation over and exams finally graded, it's back to the wonderful world of election administration. The big developments over the past few weeks have been in three areas: voting technology, registration databases, and voter ID. All three promise to be of continuing interest through the 2006 elections. Here's a brief rundown:

Voting Technology. States that received money under Title I of HAVA continue to struggle to meet its requirement that punch cards and lever machines be replaced by the 2006 election cycle. In addition, all jurisdictions throughout the country must have at least one unit accessible to people with disabilities at each polling place by 2006. The Election Center released this report containing recommendations from state and local election officials. Among its recommendations are that states adopt the voluntary voting system standards to be issued soon (hopefully) by the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC has a public meeting and hearing scheduled for June 30, 2006, at which the proposed guidelines and comments on the "voter verified paper audit trail"will be discussed. Meanwhile, activists lobbied House members late last week in support of the new Holt Bill (H.R. 550), which would require that all electronic voting machines generate a contemporaneous paper record of the electronic vote. I'll have more on this in a comment tomorrow.

Statewide Registration Databases. Another key HAVA requirement is that each state have in place by 2006 a central registration database that tracks all voters throughout the state. A briefing paper by electionline.org summarizes where states are in this process. The databases that will actually be implemented in the states will be anything but uniform, according the electionline.org report, with some adopting for a "top-down" approach (in which the database is principally maintained at the state level) and others opting for a "bottom-up" approach (in which local election authorities maintain principal responsibility for maintaining list and entering changes). About 38 states will adopt a top-down approach, six a bottom-up approach, with two adopting a mixture of both and three states yet to finalize their plans (yikes!). The companies in the database market include voting machine makers ES&S, Hart InterCivic, and Diebold, as well as IBM and Accenture.

Voter Identification. The issue of whether to require a photo ID for all voters has sparked the most bitterly partisan debate to emerge since the 2004 election, with Republicans calling for a stricter ID requirement to curb fraud and Democrats asserting that such a requirement would disenfranchise the most vulnerable voters. Among the state to have enacted strict voter ID requirements are Indiana and Georgia, with a proposal to require voter ID likely to surface in Ohio, when the state senate takes up an omnibus election reform bill (Sub. HB 3) that the House has already passed. The present version of the bill simply doesn't change the law on voter ID, but expect Senate Republicans to make an aggressive move to impose a more stringent requirement when it's considered by the Rules Committee this week. Hearings are set for tomorrow and Wednesday.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University