February 14, 2006

Report: Nineteen States Miss HAVA Accessible Polling Deadline

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

WASHINGTON, DC--More than one-third of the states failed to meet a January 1 deadline to make accessible polling systems available to voters with disabilities, according to a report released by an independent election watchdog group.

The report, entitled "Election Reform: What's Changed, What Hasn't and Why -- 2000-2006" was issued by Electionline.org, which bills itself as a non-partisan, non-advocacy election-monitoring website.

In the 85-page document, the group examined progress that states and counties have made since the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) became law. That federal law set a plan to reform how elections are conducted, and established a number of specific deadlines for states to update their voting procedures. By the first of this year, all states were to have at least one voting machine in each polling place by which voters with disabilities could independently cast a secret ballot.

Nineteen states have failed to meet that deadline, the report concluded, primarily because they have not yet decided upon or certified voting systems that satisfy those accessibility requirements.

"In the four years since the passage of HAVA, the process of upgrading older voting systems, from punch cards and lever machines to optical scan and electronic voting machines, has been hampered by politics, distrust, cost concerns, and accusations of bribery and betrayal," the study's authors wrote.

"States missed the mark for a variety of reasons, ranging from concerns over voter-verified paper audit trails to inaction at numerous levels of government."

The failure of states to meet that and other deadlines is likely to open the door to lawsuits across the country, along with challenges to the results of close elections, the report predicted.

Election Reform: What's Changed, What Hasn't and Why -- 2000-2006 (Electionline.org)

Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Federal Election Commission)

Accessible voting has limitations (Marin Independent Journal)

Group: State lags on disabled voting (Orlando Sentinel)

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Posted on February 14, 2006