The League of Women Voters Supports Voter-Verifiable Paper Trails

For a long time, the League of Women Voters (LWV) had been on the wrong side of the electronic voting machine issue. They were in favor of electronic machines, and didn’t see the need for voter-verifiable paper trails. (They use to have a horrid and misleading Q&A about the issue on their website, but it’s gone now. Barbara Simons published a rebuttal, which includes their original Q&A.)

The politics of the LWV are byzantine, but basically there are local leagues under state leagues, which in turn are under the national (LWVUS) league. There is a national convention once every other year, and all sorts of resolutions are passed by the membership. But the national office can do a lot to undercut the membership and the state leagues. The politics of voting machines is an example of this.

At the 2004 convention, the LWV membership passed a resolution on electronic voting called “SARA,” which stood for “Secure, Accurate, Recountable, and Accessible.” Those in favor of the resolution thought that “recountable” meant auditable, which meant voter-verifiable paper trails. But the national LWV office decided to spin SARA to say that recountable does not imply paper. While they could no longer oppose paper outright, they refused to say that paper was desirable. For example, they held Georgia’s system up as a model, and Georgia uses paperless Diebold DRE machines. It makes you wonder if the LWVUS leadership is in someone’s pocket.

So at the 2006 convention, the LWV membership passed another resolution. This one was much more clearly worded: designed to make it impossible for the national office to pretend that the LWV was not in favor of voter-verified paper trails.

Unfortunately, the League of Women Voters has not issued a press release about this resolution. (There is a press release by about it.) I’m sure that the national office simply doesn’t want to acknowledge the membership’s position on the issue, and wishes the issue would just go away quietly. It’s a pity; the resolution is a great one and worth publicizing.

Here’s the text of the resolution:

Resolution Related to Program Requiring a Voter-Verifiable Paper Ballot or Paper Record with Electronic Voting Machines

Motion to adopt the following resolution related to program requiring a voter-verified paper ballot or paper record with electronic voting systems.

Whereas: Some LWVs have had difficulty applying the SARA Resolution (Secure, Accurate, Recountable and Accessible) passed at the last Convention, and

Whereas: Paperless electronic voting systems are not inherently secure, can malfunction, and do not provide a recountable audit trail,

Therefore be it resolved that:

The position on the Citizens’ Right to Vote be interpreted to affirm that LWVUS supports only voting systems that are designed so that:

  1. they employ a voter-verifiable paper ballot or other paper record, said paper being the official record of the voter¹s intent; and
  2. the voter can verify, either by eye or with the aid of suitable devices for those who have impaired vision, that the paper ballot/record accurately reflects his or her intent; and
  3. such verification takes place while the voter is still in the process of voting; and
  4. the paper ballot/record is used for audits and recounts; and
  5. the vote totals can be verified by an independent hand count of the paper ballot/record; and
  6. routine audits of the paper ballot/record in randomly selected precincts can be conducted in every election, and the results published by the jurisdiction.

By the way, the 2006 LWV membership also voted on a resolution in favor of net neutrality (the Connecticut league issued a press release, because they spearheaded the issue), and one against the death penalty. The national LWV office hasn’t issued a press release about those two issues, either.

Posted on July 5, 2006 at 1:32 PM20 Comments


McGavin July 5, 2006 2:41 PM

From the Q&A:

“Finally, computer specialists with limited
experience with election systems have focused narrowly on the DRE machines
themselves without taking into account the management systems and safeguards…”

I would think that “computer specialists” have enough brain power to figure out voting systems. It doesn’t take an 85 year old election worker to understand the process.

Paul Crowley July 5, 2006 6:25 PM

This is fascinating. I’d love to know more about what’s going on with them – are there any LWV members blogging about any of this?

Bob July 5, 2006 7:51 PM

McGavin quotes the Q&A with:

“Finally, computer specialists with limited experience with election systems have focused narrowly on the DRE machines themselves without taking into account the management systems and safeguards…”

On today’s Diane Rehm show (a NPR program) they discussed the Brennan Center Report. One of the guests was Linda Lamone, adminstrator of elections for the State of Maryland. And she made the same point about computer scientists and their limited experience with election systems. It would seem that she was “on message” as they say.

Robert Merkel July 5, 2006 9:18 PM

For the benefit of those of us not up on the minutae of American pressure groups, how influential is this organization? While it is nice that they have now taken the appropriate position, does it matter much one way or the other?

Smarty Pants Liberal July 5, 2006 10:07 PM

“are there any LWV members blogging about any of this?”

I live in the state from which this county clerk hails and women down here don’t speak negatively of other women in politics. We have to walk all the way around the barn before we cut to the chase and even then we select our words very carefully.

“how influential is this organization?”

Well one can quote Bruce Schneier and the rest of the Brennan Center’s Task Force on Voting Security until the cows come home but the response that most will receive will be similar to “I’ve read this article. It is very disturbing. Has there been additional confirmation of this report that we can rely on? And, if so, are there any major organizations or individuals prepared to address the matter?”

HOWEVER, if the LWV says it, then it is so.

Yes, it matters very much.

mr. b. July 5, 2006 10:14 PM

I believe the LWV historically hosted the presentation of the Presidential and VP election debates, and the loss of that control is why we only get to see the candidates from the Donkey and Elephant parties every four years.

Merijn July 6, 2006 3:21 AM

In the Netherlands one election fraud was detected using electronic voting machines.

A dutch article about this is here, this is from a local trustworthy newspaper:

I will try to summarize:
In a home for sick and elderly people, one man got 181 votes, whereas in the rest of the community he only got 11 votes. The man was actually operating the electronic voting machine himself!

The mayor of the community decided to take action, after a voluntary, blind, paper poll was carried out in the neighborhood. Without disclosing actual numbers, there must have been a siginificant difference between the 181 votes he got according to the machine, and the non-official poll. The poll had asked anybody that could have voted there, and more than 90% of them responded.

Even a few days after these elections (held in March), there were already questions asked about who was operating the machine.

The article also mentions one potential method how this could’ve been done: by switching a key, the operator can render the machine in a test-mode, where it will operate correctly, but will not recognize the vote. The manual counting (which also happens) of the number of people entering the room will require as many results, so the person operating the machine can then assign these to himself.

I do not know the brand of these machines, I do know that the machines used in the Netherlands do not output a paper trail.

My two cents,
– Merijn

SecWonk July 6, 2006 7:20 AM

I continue to be amazed that there is any resistance here. No one with half a brain runs a PC without firewall, antivirus, etc. And while most reciepts at ATM machines are thrown away, many of us still check them from time to time. Why is there resistance to voting audits? I can only assume that elections are regularly rigged, and proper deployment of technology will actually reveal this to the people for the first time! The president of Diebold promised to deliver Ohio for president Bush in 2004…

Anonymous July 6, 2006 7:30 AM

I was on the LWV website, and it is darn hard to find ANYTHING about electronic voting on the website. It appears that if they can’t say what they were supposed to say, they won’t say anything at all. Considering this is a central issue in voting, it amazes me that this is not more obvious. It really does call into question the orientation of LWV leadership.

SmartAleck July 6, 2006 1:05 PM

“It really does call into question the orientation of LWV leadership.”

You mean they’re all lesibans?

(Sorry, just couldn’t resist.)

Quercus July 6, 2006 3:36 PM

“Finally, computer specialists with limited experience with election systems have focused narrowly on the DRE machines themselves without taking into account the management systems and safeguards…”

Which is of course in no way comparable to election administrators with limited experience with computer systems focusing narrowly on management without taking into account the hardware and software systems and vulnerabilities.

JStraight July 6, 2006 6:39 PM

I’m a member of the League and was preturbed to find that there was no mention anywhere on the LWVUS site about the new resolution requiring the use of a paper ballot/record in an election. Thinking that maybe I had missed it somewhere, I called the LWVUS office last week to ask them where it was on their site. Noone answered the phone and I had to leave a message! To date, they have not returned my call.

Many of us have hope though, now that the National League has a new president. She is from New Mexico, and her state league supported their governor’s call for a paper ballot op-scan system after their disaster of an election using electronic voting machines.

Xellos July 7, 2006 12:46 PM

–“In the Netherlands one election fraud was detected using electronic voting machines.”

Doesn’t sound like it was detected using the EVMs. More like it was detected by someone looking at the results and saying “that one looks odd, we better check it out”.

Unfortunately for the US, we seem to be disallowed from doing that any more…

Silona July 13, 2006 4:26 PM

I believe some of the local groups like Austin’s league of women voters worked really hard and discretely to get national to change their position.

It is sad that the handicapped groups were so heavily manipulated to get this endorsement. Most blind techies that I know are completely opposed to how the current system is implimented.

Janeen November 21, 2006 11:30 PM

Coming in very late (about five months) on this conversation…

The resolution about verifiable voting IS on the LWVUS website (, as are all resolutions from that convention. To find it, in the SEARCH function (upper right-hand side of screen), type in “Report of Convention 2006”.

I don’t know when it was posted, but June and July are traditionally vacation months, which may be why it was not on there when this discussion happened in early July and why Jstraight did not get an answer.

Paul Crowley asked about LWV members blogging … most LWV members are not all that comfortable with computers (average age is probably 65), so it’s unlikely many of them blog. They did talk about this issue, and there were certainly emails (both private and on member lists) and letters sent back and forth.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.