WASHINGTON – Voting systems would be more secure and voter access improved for those with disabilities under voluntary guidelines approved Tuesday by the Election Assistance Commission.
The guidelines are a result of federal legislation passed two years after the 2000 election fiasco, with its hanging chads, complaints of inadequate polling places and problems with mistaken voting. The Help America Vote Act requires improved voting systems, improved voter access and statewide voter registration lists by Jan. 1.
The act also required the development of the voting guidelines that were approved Tuesday.
"The voting system guidelines we've adopted are structured to make sure voting systems function properly, that they are secure, that the votes cast by voters are counted accurately, that they are accessible to all voters no matter their age, disability and level of literacy," Commission Chair Gracia Hillman said.
Under the guidelines, those responsible for the voting systems would have to ensure that all voters can cast ballots with privacy, independence and the knowledge that their vote will be counted accurately.
These protections extend to people with disabilities, the elderly and those with limited English skills. Improvements include higher quality audio aids, larger type for ballots for the vision-impaired and buttons and controls that are easily identifiable.
According to the new guidelines:
—Voters should have the capacity to review their choice on the ballot and then change it if they want.
—Voting machines should have verifiable paper trails that are reliable and secure. Those guidelines could be used by many states that require electronic voting machines that create a paper trail.
—Security of software and other computer technology used in voting machines should be assured.
The guidelines developed by the Election Assistance Commission will update earlier guidelines adopted by the Federal Election Commission in 2002. By December 2007, all voting systems will be tested against the new standards set by the Election Assistance Commission, but states can adopt the guidelines earlier.
Currently, 39 states require their voting systems to meet federal standards.