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Publish Date: 3/24/2005

Panel wants paper trail from voting machines


DENVER ó A blue-ribbon panel will propose that all new electronic voting machines be required to have a paper trail to avoid disputes and uncertainty about the results, a member of the group said Wednesday.

The panel, appointed by the stateís top elections official after problems surfaced in the run-up to the November 2004 vote, will also propose making it illegal for a voter-registration drive worker to throw away registration forms, said Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park.

The panel will present its recommendations to lawmakers today.

Secretary of State Donetta Davidson named the 14-member panel, including Republicans and Democrats, after newly registered voters were missing from the rolls, absentee ballots were sent late to voters and disputes arose over electronic voting machines without paper records.

Both parties launched aggressive registration drives last year, signing up tens of thousands of new voters. Some were turned away at the polls because their names did not appear on state records. As many as 55,000 names showed up at least twice on state registration lists.

The proposed law would make it a misdemeanor for someone to register another voter and not submit the paperwork. People signing up would get a receipt that would entitle them to vote even if their names do not show up on the voter rolls.

Under the current rules, voters who say they have registered but whose names arenít on the rolls are given a provisional ballot that is not to be counted until after their status is verified.

The proposal also would require future electronic voting equipment to provide paper records of how votes were cast by 2006. Municipalities that bought machines that donít provide paper trails would have to upgrade by 2010.

Christine Watson of the League of Women Voters said paper records could cause problems unless lawmakers find a way to protect the secrecy of the ballot and work out a plan for what officials must do if paper results donít match electronic results.

She said no voter fraud was documented in the last Colorado election and questioned the need for many of the reforms.

White said tougher rules are needed because election outcomes have become closer.

ďI think following every election we will continue to tighten our election procedures,Ē said White, who will sponsor the reform bill in the House.

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