How We Got Our Current System

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA)

This is a federal law that was signed into law by President Bush on October 29, 2002.  It was drafted (at least in part) in reaction to the controversy surrounding the 2000 Presidential election, when almost two million ballots were disqualified because they registered multiple votes or none when run through vote-counting machines.  The goals of HAVA are:

  • replace punchcard and lever-based voting systems (we had the lever machines);

  • create the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to assist in the administration of federal elections ; and

  • establish minimum election administration standards.

HAVA mandated that all states and localities upgrade their voting machines, registration processes and poll worker training. The specifics of implementation were left up to each state, which allowed for varying interpretations of the federal law.

HAVA also required that each polling location have at least one voting system accessible to individuals with disabilities, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for privacy and independence as for other voters.

HAVA requires all voting systems be auditable and produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity available as an official record for any recount conducted.  Citing this provision was part of a lawsuit (Banfield v. Cortez) that some citizens brought against the PA Secretary of State in 2006.  It took many years to move through the courts; here's the timeline until its disappointing conclusion in 2015.

HAVA and Bucks County

Compliance with HAVA provisions and timelines was not met in every state, both because of the difficulty of identifying and certifying reliable HAVA compliant voting machines and due to political and bureaucratic delays.  No optical scan systems were certified in Pennsylvania until January 2006, so we were given permission to delay a decision on picking a system.

Coalition for Voting Integrity (CVI)—Bucks County’s first election integrity effort and its timeline:

June 2005: founded by Ruth Matheny & Mary Ann Gould

June 2005 – March 2006:  Mission to educate public and Commissioners Jim Cawley (R), Charlie Martin (R) and Sandy Miller (D) all about voting system choices available and the pros/cons of each.  The final choice of which voting system is purchased is left up to the county commissioners. CVI established  an extensive informational website, wrote letters-to-editor and editorials, passed out flyers, gave lectures, held symposiums, sponsored movies, petitioned and visited legislators, organized rallies, held fundraisers and dinners to raise awareness, attended every commissioner meeting, some members were part of lawsuits, among other activities.  The public got the message, Commissioners Cawley and Martin did not.  They (and other local government officials) misrepresented the facts, ignored our efforts, and ultimately purchased the Danaher DRE (pushbutton) system in March 2006, from a distributor called ELECTEC, not a manufacturer/vendor (meaning the machines were used or reconditioned).

March 2006 – at least 2009: CVI actively continued efforts to get commissioners to get rid of DRE system and purchase an optical scan, paper based system.  While our new Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia (D) was very helpful with our efforts during this time, Commissioners Cawley and Martin insisted there was nothing wrong with our "new" DRE system.

SAVE Bucks Votes in 2017 and beyond:   We now have a new opportunity to push for change with our current Commissioners Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Rob Loughery, and Charlie Martin. It will require a combination of enthusiastic public dedication for our cause, and a willingness for officials to work with us with open minds to overcome fiscal and other alleged challenges to get the voting system Bucks citizens deserve.

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They are aware and engaging with our issue:  Read recent Intelligencer headline article, "Voters: Abandon electronic machines."

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