FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   April 23, 2001
RE:   Assembly committee passes voting tech bills

Hi Folks,

This afternoon (Monday, April 23) the Assembly Elections Committee took up two voting technology bills: AB 55, by Kevin Shelley, and AB 56, by Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. (A third bill, AB 28 by Robert Pacheco, was not taken up; the author has instead decided to become a co-author on Hertzberg's AB 56.)

One development today was that Hertzberg and Shelley have become joint authors of both bills, which indicates that the bills will now be moving as a package. Shelley first took up AB 55, which was recently amended and includes a number of provisions relating to the voting process, including pollworker training, polling place Internet voting and a "Voter's Bill of Rights" to be posted at voting precincts. (The full text is available through CVF's Voting Technology Resources page, at

The first issue the committee discussed was security. Committee member Dennis Cardoza stated his concern about the absence of a paper trail with electronic voting. Shelley responded that security concerns are best addressed in the Secretary of State's voting equipment certification process. Shelley repeatedly pointed out that the Internet voting provisions in his bill permit only polling place Internet voting, not remote voting from home or work. Shelley highlighted the findings of both the California Secretary of State's Internet Voting Task Force and more recently, the National Science Foundation's Internet Voting study, which both rejected remote Internet voting but concluded that polling place Internet voting can and should be pursued. Shelley emphasized that his bill wouldn't transmit ballots over the World Wide Web, but rather through direct transmission between the polling place and the county election office. Shelley also emphasized that the online, polling place voting would only be implemented in counties where the board of supervisors approved the program, and that no county would be required to provide Internet voting unless it wanted it.

The committee then held a discussion about the idea of having a paper trail. Initially, it was suggested that voters be given a receipt showing how they voted; Chris Reynolds, representing the Secretary of State's office, pointed out that giving voters receipts that they can take away from the polls showing how they voted undermines the secret ballot and may facilitate vote selling and vote swapping. Committee Vice-Chair Roy Ashburn said that voters want to walk away from the polls with confidence that their votes were properly recorded. Dennis Cardoza then told his fellow committee members about an election in Stanislaus County on a local measure where the computer switched the "yes" votes and "no" votes, and that it was only by recounting the paper ballots that the error was detected. Committee Chair John Longville suggested one way to deal with the paper trail/secret ballot issue was to print out the voter's votes at the polling place, but don't give the receipt to the voter; instead keep it as a back-up in case a paper recount is needed.

Bill Leonard asked Shelley and his fellow committee members what kind of errors computerized voting machines can produce in comparison with paper machines? The committee had a brief discussion about overvotes and undervotes, but it was clear that many of them were unfamiliar with the variety of ways that people cast intentional or unintentional nonvotes. Jerome Horton asked if the electronic machines have an "exit audit" or produce any kind of exception report, and his fellow committee members seemed to generally agree that such an audit or report would be valuable.

Lynn Daucher asked about a provision in Shelley's bill to fund new equipment for counties that want to move from punch cards to online, touchscreen voting. Daucher pointed out that at the committee's informational hearing in January one registrar from a punch card county said that punch cards worked fine for them, and she expressed concern that the specific language in Shelley's bill might set up a legal challenge to punch card counties.

There were many witnesses present to testify on AB 55, including representatives of senior groups, voters with disabilities, firefighters, school employee and labor groups, voting technology company representatives, and Oracle. Secretary of State Bill Jones' representative, Chris Reynolds, said his office supports AB 55 if amended, and pointed out that the bill provides no money for voter outreach or communications. He said another bill, AB 1651, was likely to be amended to provide funding for voter outreach and education, and confirmed that the Internet voting provisions of AB 55 are consistent with the Secretary of State's task force findings.

The debate on AB 56 was far less contentious. However, the security issue was raised again, this time by Roy Ashburn. Shelley pointed out that current law specifies that a voting system must be secure from fraud, and suggested that AB 56 could be amended to cross reference the specific code addressing the voting system certification process. Ashburn responded by saying that it is entirely possible that the existing references aren't sufficient to address new technology and again emphasized the importance of a paper record. The committee agreed that a paper trail was important and that, rather than holding up the bill, they would pass it out of committee on the condition that the bill be amended to address the paper trail/security concerns and that those amendments would be given to the committee chair (John Longville) and vice-chair (Roy Ashburn) to review on behalf of the committee.

AB 55/Shelley passed out of the committee with some Republican opposition. AB 56/Hertzberg passed out of the committee on a strong, bipartisan vote (the final vote count should be available online tomorrow, as well as the committee's analyses of the bills). The next stop for AB 55 and AB 56 is the appropriations committee, which will be looking at the fiscal impact of the bills.

That's it for now. Have a great week!

-- Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation,, (916) 325-2120

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This page was first published on April 24, 2001 | Last updated on April 24, 2001
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