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Women's Group Pulls Touchscreen Vote Support

The League of Women Voters (search) rescinded its support of paperless voting machines on Monday after hundreds of angry members voiced concern that paper ballots were the only way to safeguard elections from fraud, hackers or computer malfunctions.

About 800 delegates who attended the nonpartisan league's biennial convention in Washington voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that supports "voting systems and procedures that are secure, accurate, recountable and accessible."

That relatively neutral stance was a sharp change from last year, when league leaders endorsed paperless terminals as reliable alternatives to antiquated punch card and lever systems. About 30 percent of the electorate will use touchscreen voting machines in the November election, and hardly any of the machines provide paper records that could be used in case of a contested election.

Last year's endorsement infuriated members from chapters around the country — particularly in Silicon Valley and other technology-savvy enclaves, where computer scientists say the systems jeopardize elections. Legitimate recounts are impossible without paper records of every vote cast, they say.

E-voting critics who attended the five-day convention, which ends Tuesday, said the league's revision was welcome — if not overdue.

"My initial reaction is incredible joy and relief," said computer scientist Barbara Simons, 63, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery and a league member from a chapter in Palo Alto, Calif. "This issue was threatening to split the league apart. ... The league now has a position that I feel very comfortable supporting."

Paperless voting has raised alarms, as several states discovered technical and other glitches in their February primaries. At least 20 states have introduced legislation requiring a paper record of every vote cast.