Summary: The Voting Systems Reform Act requires all jurisdictions in the state to use modern vote counting technology that produces voter-verified paper records. The Act also creates an Election Review Commission to study election procedures and recommend future reforms, sets forth rules for provisional ballots and voter purges, and requires a statewide voter registration system.
Background: All voting systems were supposed to be fixed by the federal Help America Vote Act, but there is still much to do. Did We Fix That? is a report by Common Cause which explains the road ahead. With respect to this model bill, see recommendations: #17 The standard-setting and certification process for voting machines must be reformed; and #18 Audits of voting equipment must be conducted after each election as part of a comprehensive audit program, and data concerning machine performance must be publicly disclosed in a common data format.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Voting Systems Reform Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:
1. Recent elections have exposed serious flaws in our nation’s voting systems. Too many Americans cast ballots that went uncounted or were turned away or discouraged from voting because of faulty systems.
2. In the most recent General Election, [insert state data] voters’ ballots for [president/governor] were invalidated because voting machines recorded overvotes or undervotes. Even more ballots were invalidated for lower offices.
3. To protect the right to vote for all citizens, the state must ensure that every jurisdiction in the state use modern, accurate and auditable vote counting technology and must create an Election Review Commission to study election procedures and recommend future reforms.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect and enhance the most basic right in a democracy—the right to vote for all qualified adults—and ensure that all legal votes are counted.
SECTION 3. VOTING REFORM
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
(A) DEFINITIONS—in this section:
1. “Board” means the State [Board of Election Supervisors]. (NOTE: Where appropriate, the Secretary of State’s office can be designated as the administering agency.)
2. “Election” means any federal, state or local election held in the state.
3. “Local election supervisor” means a person or group of persons directing the conduct of elections for any city or county.
4. “Election official” means a person or group of persons directing the conduct of elections at the precinct, county or statewide level.
5. “Vote counting system” means the system used by a local election supervisor to examine and count election ballots.
(B) MODERN ELECTION TECHNOLOGY
1. Modern vote counting system required. Local election supervisors must use a vote counting system approved by the Board. The Board will only approve the use of electronic devices that directly record voters’ choices or optical scanning devices that scan marked paper ballots at each polling place. Such devices must also meet the following requirements:
a. The voting system will permit the voter to verify his or her selections and correct any errors before the ballot is counted.
b. If the voter selects more than one candidate for a single office, the voting system will notify the voter and permit the voter to correct his or her selections before the ballot is counted.
c. If the voter selects fewer than the number of candidates for which votes may be cast, the voting system will notify the voter and permit the voter to alter his or her selections before the ballot is counted.
d. The voting system will produce a record with an audit capacity for each ballot cast. Until the Board rules otherwise, for a direct recording electric voting system, an audit capacity requires that the system generate a paper record of each individual vote cast, which shall be maintained in a secure fashion and serve as a backup record for recounts. Such paper record must be viewable by the voter before the vote is cast electronically, and the system must allow the voter to correct any discrepancy between the electronic vote and the paper record before the vote is cast. Only after the Board rules that there is clear and convincing evidence that a secure and highly reliable audit and recount capacity can be achieved using a backup system other than paper records, the Board may promulgate rules that permit another audit system for direct recording electric voting systems.
e. The voting system will be accessible to individuals with disabilities and other special needs, and will be capable of providing ballots in languages other than English where required by federal or state law.
f. The voting system will provide accuracy, reliability, security from fraud, and ease of use.
2. Exceptions. For absentee ballots, provisional ballots, and for counties with fewer than 10,000 registered voters, the Board may approve the use of hand-counted or optical scan-counted paper ballots which do not comply with subsection (1).
3. Audits. For each election, the local election supervisor shall conduct a hand count of at least two percent of the precincts in that city or county, or two precincts, whichever is greater. The precincts shall be selected by lot without the use of a computer, and the order of selection by the county political party chairmen shall also be by lot. The unofficial vote totals from all precincts shall be made public before selecting the precincts to be hand counted.
4. Uniform ballot designs. The Board will designate and graphically depict uniform primary and general election ballot designs for each approved vote counting system. Local election supervisors must follow these uniform ballot designs.
(C) PROVISIONAL BALLOTS
1. Issuance. Any person who claims to be registered to vote, but is not listed on the voter registration list on the day of the election, shall be issued a provisional ballot.
2. Determination of eligibility. The determination of eligibility to vote shall be made without regard to the location at which the voter cast the provisional ballot or any requirement to present identification.
3. Use as a registration form. The Board shall design the provisional ballot so that it conforms to the requirements of a voter registration application. If an individual who submits a provisional ballot is determined not to be a registered voter, the provisional ballot shall act as a voter registration application valid for future elections.
(D) STANDARDS FOR PURGING VOTERS
1. Public Notice. Not later than 90 days prior to any federal or state election, the Board shall provide public notice of all names that have been removed from the voter registration list since the most recent election or the date of the most recent previous public notice provided under this section, and the criteria, processes, and procedures used to determine which names were removed.
2. Individual Notice. No individual shall be removed from the voter registration list unless such individual is provided with a notice consistent with the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.).
3. Non-discriminatory standards. The Board shall develop a codified, non-discriminatory minimum set of standards in the matching process before purging. This process shall include an exact match of:
a. First, last, middle names,
b. The social security number or other unique identification number,
c. Date of birth, and
Any person who willfully violates this section will be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
SECTION 4. ELECTION REVIEW COMMISSION
(A) Election review commission established. There is established a permanent state commission known as the Election Review Commission.
(B) Commission membership. The Commission will be composed of nine members, including the Chair appointed by the governor, and two members recommended by each of the following: the Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, House Speaker, and House Minority Leader. Of the nine members, at least five will not be government officials or employees and will represent academia, nonprofit organizations, the faith community, labor unions, or industry.
(C) Duties of the commission. Following each general election, the Commission will conduct a study of the administration of elections to:
1. Determine if state election laws and regulations were followed in the prior election cycle, and if not, why they were not followed.
2. Determine the number and percentage of overvotes and undervotes in the prior elections, along with the reasons for these overvotes and undervotes.
3. Determine if precincts had adequate facilities for the number of voters served.
4. Examine what election practices or proposals increase or diminish voter participation.
5. Recommend how election procedures can and should be improved.
(D) Report. The Election Review Commission will report its findings and recommendations to the legislature on or before February 1 following each general election.
SECTION 5. COMPLIANCE WITH EXISTING LAW
Nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize or require conduct prohibited under the following laws:
(A) The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15301 et seq.).
(B) The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.).
(C) The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq.).
(D) The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.).
(E) The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.).
(F) The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 1994 et seq.).
SECTION 6. FUNDING
The Board shall apply for all available federal grants to fund the requirements of this Act.
SECTION 7. EFFECTIVE DATE
Local election supervisors must use a vote counting system approved by the Board for all elections held after January 1, 20XX. All other provisions shall take effect on July 1, 20XX.