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VA In Danger of Becoming First to Return to Paperless Voting

February 2, 2009

Richmond, VA – Virginia may become the first state in the nation to move backward toward paperless electronic voting.

A Senate subcommittee votes on Tuesday on overturning the Virginia law requiring the state to phase out paperless voting. Since 2004, Virginia law has required counties buying new machines to purchase only machines that provide a paper ballot.

Alex Blakemore, a 25-year veteran of computer science, is the co-founder of Virginia Verified Voting. He says this push backward toward purely electronic voting is risky.

"We recognize, because we work with this stuff, that technology comes with risks, and we need safeguards to protect against the risk. It doesn't make sense to adopt the technology and be blind to the risks. Any voting machine has some weaknesses."

Blakemore advocates using optical scanning machines, in which a voter casts a ballot on paper that is then collected and scanned into a computer. He says optical scanning's paper trail allows for verifiable recounts.

"The problem with the electronic voting machines is they are impossible to verify. Any errors that are in the process cannot even be detected, much less remedied, if they're not caught before the election."

Blakemore says the errors may not be intentional, but having a paper ballot ensures recounts are possible.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA