National Committee for Voting Integrity

Electronic Voting Law, Acts, and Bills

The United States Constitution outlines roles for both the state and federal governments in elections. States are given the authority to regulate the elections process itself. This includes the power to decide details of registration procedures, absentee voting requirements, establishment of polling places, and counting and certification of the vote. States are, in general, also responsible for covering the costs of elections. While election policy and regulations are decided at the state level, most states have decentralized the process so that details of election administration, including the choice of voting technologies, are done at the city or county levels.

Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
As a result of the 2000 Presidential Election debacle, the federal government has exerted more direct authority over the administration of elections and mandated specific procedures for election reform. Among the mandates in the Help America Vote Act are the requirement for all states to provide a process for allowing voters to cast provisional ballots by 2004 and the requirement for all states to have at least one DRE machine per county to provide enhanced access to the voting process by people with disabilities by 2006. A provisional ballot allows voters whose voter registration status is in doubt to cast a vote pending review by the local election board.

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Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
In the fall of 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), an extension of copyright protections designed to deal with problems the copyright industry saw emerging with the growing adoption of digital technologies such as the personal computer and the Internet. The DMCA, which was supported by the software and entertainment industries and opposed by academics, librarians and scientists, included provisions making it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures included in commercial software and stipulated that Internet service providers must remove material from their clients web sites that appears to violate copyright. Copyright holders who determine that a web site is storing or linking to information they believe to be under their copyright can notify the Internet service provider hosting the site and demand that the material be removed.

The DMCA negatively restricts public debate over electronic voting in at least two significant ways. First, the law makes it illegal to apply long established and legally recognized fair use principles, which allowed the reverse engineering of commercially available electronic technology that utilizes encryption. This prohibition on reverse engineering restricts the legitimate investigation of the claims made by electronic voting technology vendors about their equipment. Second, the mere posting of data regarding the design and operation of voting software developed by private corporations may be subject to a DMCA pull down request, as was the case when voting activist Bev Harris posted software source code and internal company memos of the DRE voting machine manufacturer Diebold corporation.

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Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA)
UCITA bars the public disclosure of flaws or problems discovered in equipment purchased or about to be purchased. Language from this Act may appear in purchase contracts provided by vendors to states and counties. It shields manufactures from liability from poorly designed voting equipment; bars public comment or disclosure of poorly performing software that may exist on electronic voting technology; and allows the introduction of "back doors" in the design an implementation of software products sold under these types of contract or licensing agreements.

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Proposed Legislation
Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003
Sponsored by congressman Rush Holt (NJ), the bill requires all voting systems to produce a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits and recounts, bans the use of undisclosed software and wireless communications devices in voting systems, requires all voting systems to meet these requirements in time for the general election in November 2004, requires that electronic voting system be provided for persons with disabilities by January 1, 2006 -- one year earlier than currently required by HAVA and requires mandatory surprise recounts in 0.5% of domestic jurisdictions and 0.5% of overseas jurisdictions.

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General Resources

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