Hay Bright calls for paper ballots in federal elections
November 4, 2006
In a few minutes I will participate in one of the most important processes in any democracy - I will cast my vote. I will do so on a paper ballot, which will be counted by hand after the close of elections next Tuesday.

Paper ballots are the norm in Maine. We have no touch-screen voting machines, although we do have some counting machines. So we are highly confident that the outcome of elections all across Maine will actually reflect the intent of the voters who cast those ballots.

The same cannot be said across the country, where people cast votes on computerized machines which have no paper verification trail, no way to audit the authenticity of the vote, and no way to guarantee that the results actually reflect the intent of the voters who cast those ballots.

This situation is absolutely unacceptable in our democracy. If the integrity of the voting process cannot be guaranteed, then democracy itself is lost.

We must assure this process is accurate. And the only way to do that is by using paper ballots for all voting.

In Maine, as I said, we have paper ballots, counted only by people or by counting machines. I have suggested to several legislators and legislative candidates, and to the Secretary of State himself, that Maine should have a law which validates only people-counted ballots. Machine counts, in my opinion, should give us preliminary numbers, not official ones. Preliminary, since we can get a quick idea of who won the election. But the official count should be those same ballots counted by hand, by people, either late on election night, or the next day, until the process is done. Occasional audits of counting machines, in my opinion, is not enough.

But this is a state issue, one that I will have no direct bearing on, should I become the next U.S. Senator from the great state of Maine.

However, as that next U.S. Senator, I am prepared to present a bill that calls for standardized paper ballots for all federal offices - President, U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress - all across the country. States would be free to use touch screen voting machines or other mechanical equipment for state and local races, as they wish, but votes for federal offices would be on paper ballots, counted by hand.

Federal officeholders - two senators and however many Congressmen from each state - pass legislation which affects the entire nation. So it is reasonable that the process to elect those federal officeholders be standardized across the country.

In that regard, beyond paper ballots for federal offices, I would also like to see standardized voter registration rules, and standardized voting laws, for voting in those federal elections. At the moment, different states have different requirements and deadlines, for registering people to vote, for casting provisional ballots, for purging voters from registration lists. In Maine, people can register to vote on election day, and vote immediately. Other states require people to register weeks or months before the election. Some states, such as Maine, allow felons to vote, others, like Florida, do not.

We have been telling people this entire campaign to Vote for the America You Want to Live In. For that to work, for their votes to count, they must be counted accurately. I will do everything in my power, as Maineís next U.S. Senator, to assure the validity and accuracy of that vote.