Paper Trail Urged For Electronic Votes

Representative-elect Christine Jennings, D-Fla., is interviewed prior to the first orientation meeting of newly-elected members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Monday, Nov. 13, 2006. Jennings and her opponent, Republican Vern Buchanan, are both attending freshman orientation this week as they await official results in their race which is being investigated because of suspect electronic voting machines.
A Democratic lawmaker on Wednesday urged Congress to approve his measure requiring a paper trail for electronic voting, following a disputed vote in a Florida congressional district.

New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt said the inaccuracy of electronic touch-screen voting machines "poses a direct threat to the integrity of our electoral system." Holt argued that the Florida district, in which more than 18,000 votes have gone uncounted, has exposed the system's flaws.

Florida's Secretary of State will order a hand recount Thursday of the disputed and undecided House seat representing Florida's 13th district being vacated by Katherine Harris, CBS News has learned. In the hand recount, the machines will regenerate on paper an image of every ballot summary page.

Florida law requires a recount in all five southwest Florida counties in the 13th Congressional District. But scrutiny is focused on Sarasota County, where touch-screen voting machines recorded that 18,382 people — 13 percent of voters in the Nov. 7 election — did not vote for either Republican Vern Buchanan or Democrat Christine Jennings, despite casting ballots in other races on the ballot.

But a total of 17 percent of the touch-screen votes in the 13th district were either missed, skipped, or did not count, CBS News reports.

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., said he found it "unfathomable" that more than 18,000 people would cast votes in other races but not in the congressional race. He added there's a host of theories that could explain what happened to those votes, but without a paper trail no one knows the truth.

At a news conference with Holt, Wexler blamed Florida's lack of a paper trail law on the "irrational stubbornness of Gov. Jeb Bush," who he says has refused to consider any such regulation.

The Florida Department of State reported Monday that Buchanan had a 377-vote lead over Jennings — less than 0.2 percent. The Associated Press' unofficial election night count had the total at 373. Buchanan has declared victory; Jennings has not conceded. The race is one of a handful of races across the nation that remains unresolved more than a week after Election Day.

A coalition of voter advocacy organizations announced it would stage a public hearing Thursday calling on voters to come forward to offer public testimony on the election problems and offer ideas about how to improve the voting process, CBS News reports.

Holt's "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" had the support of 219 House members before last week's election and now has 221 bipartisan co-sponsors, his office said.

The bill would require that all voting systems produce a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits; ban the use of undisclosed software and all wireless and concealed communications devises in voting systems; and establish procedures to be followed if there is a discrepancy between reported results and audit results.