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Senators call for paper trail in e-voting

Glitches cited in Florida's primary Tuesday

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Bob Graham
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Electronic voting

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bob Graham called Wednesday for a paper trail to back up electronic voting throughout the country.

The Democratic senators told reporters a bill they have drafted calls for every jurisdiction to have machines that produce paper records that would enable recounts.

They pointed to recent electronic voting glitches that they said underscore the need for the change to restore citizen confidence in voter systems.

"Yesterday in Palm Beach County, Florida, the 'oops' factor again reared its ugly head, casting doubt in the minds of many Floridians about whether or not their vote was actually counted," Graham said.

"An error on the part of poll workers pressing the wrong button to activate voting machines prevented many from voting in the Democratic primaries."

Graham represents Florida, which held its presidential preference primary Tuesday. Balloting problems in that state four years ago put the presidential election in dispute until it was resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He pointed out that after vote-counting "irregularities" in Bay County, officials there were able to pursue a recount because they were still operating with the old paper-ballot system.

"These problems raise the fundamental issue of a citizen's confidence in the voting process," Graham said.

"And that's what this bill is all about: assuring that each and every voter can have confidence in our elections and that when problems do arise, there can be a determination made about them -- what went wrong and how to correct it so that every vote is counted."

There should be a paper trail as there is with an ATM machine, air tickets and gas pumps, he said.

"We should listen to what our citizens are saying about their preference and provide the same" kind of paper trail for voting.

Saying they are addressing citizen concerns on voting, the senators said the issue isn't partisan.

"We have to restore trust in our voting and have to do it now before elections in November," said Clinton, the former first lady who represents New York.

She said that on Election Day at least 50 million voters will vote on touch-screen machines, and it is imperative they be able to verify their ballot through paper records.

She said money must be channeled quickly to states to help them implement the procedure.

"We know how to give a record for an electronic transaction. This legislation will ensure that voters will be able to verify a paper ballot that accurately reflects their intentions, and that will be locked away and will be the official ballot in the event of a recount," Clinton said.

Clinton raised the issue of security and said tests have shown that electronic systems are "vulnerable to hacking." She said the software has to be appropriate and manufacturers have to adhere to safety standards.

She said security concerns have been "enflamed" by Walden O'Dell, chief executive officer of Diebold, a major electronic voting manufacturer, who has said he was committed to bringing in votes for President Bush.

"So we have a system that's vulnerable to attack, provides no real accountability to ensure accuracy and, to feed the concerns of people, we have an e-voting manufacturer demonstrating partisanship. This should give us all pause," she said.

O'Dell has said he was talking only about his personal actions, not his business dealings.

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