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Electronic Voting: The 2004 Election
Four years after the 2000 election debacle, a fierce debate still rages over the machinery used to cast and count votes. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 ("HAVA") promised major changes in the infrastructure of American democracy, including funding for the replacement of outdated voting equipment.
Spurred by both legislation and litigation, states from Florida to Maryland to California have taken steps to replace the infamous "hanging chad" punch card machine with more modern – and supposedly more reliable – voting systems. Voters affected by the continuing deployment of older technology have brought lawsuits to challenge its use – including an unsuccessful attempt to postpone the California recall. In addition, citizens with disabilities have brought suit in three states, challenging the accessibility of paper-based systems and seeking its replacement with more accessible electronic voting technology.
At the same time, the replacement of punch cards with electronic "touchscreen" voting machines has generated enormous anxiety in some quarters, fueling legal challenges to paperless electronic voting. The belief that the present generation of electronic voting technology is insecure has caused some to demand that a "voter verified paper audit trail" be required by law. This would require that all electronic voting machines generate a contemporaneous paper record (or "CPR") of the electronically cast ballot, something that has until now been attempted by a few jurisdictions on a very limited basis.
This conference will examine the legal and policy issues surrounding the ongoing transformation in voting technology. It brings together lawyers, law professors, computer scientists, political scientists, and advocates. The conference will provide a multidisciplinary and multidimensional perspective on the challenges that Ohio and the rest of the nation face, as we move from paper-based systems like the infamous punch card to electronic voting.
The conference will start by providing evidence about the practical issues that frame the legal debate surrounding voting technology and outline the critical facts that should guide the law's response to the problems and opportunities posed by electronic voting. The first panel will feature discussion of the empirical research on voting machines. It will also include computer scientists who will discuss both the risks and advantages of electronic voting. Finally, it will include discussion of the vulnerabilities of electronic voting, and proposals that have been made for enhancing its security.
The second panel will focus on the voting rights dimension of the controversy over electronic voting. This includes the claim made by some advocates that paperless electronic voting threatens to deny the right to vote, by preventing reliable audits of election results. On the other side, the panel will also include supporters of electronic voting who believe that electronic voting reduces the number of residual votes, and has the potential to enhance equal voting for people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and voters with disabilities. It will also assess the possible legislative, judicial and administrative responses to the risks posed by electronic voting.
The conference will include analysis of recent litigation that has been filed, both by opponents of paperless electronic voting and by citizens with disabilities seeking to require its implementation. Panelists will also analyze and critique Ohio H.B. 262, which will require that electronic voting machines generate a "voter verified paper audit trail" effective 2006.