For American voters to regain faith in their elections, voters should be given a unique identification card, and electronic voting machines need a paper record that voters can check and elections officials can recount, a prestigious federal panel reported Monday.

The Commission on Federal Voting Reform's call for Congress to require a voter-verified paper trail for recounts nationwide comes as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers signing a similar bill for California.

Election officials from Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to local registrars of voters are opposing the measure because the paper printouts don't fit the state's legal definition of a ballot and because recounting them would be "onerous and time consuming."

The federal panel, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, concluded that e-voting machines need to produce paper trails for recounts "to instill greater confidence" and ensure transparency in U.S. elections.

Paper trail advocates in Congress and the California Legislature hailed the report and urged passage of a law requiring paper trails, including for the state's mandatory recount of 1 percent of all precincts in elections. California has had an automatic recount since the 1960s as a check on the accuracy of computerized vote tallies.


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"Relying on the electronic machine's own tally to satisfy the 1 percent manual count law, as California's elections officials are doing now, undermines the 40-year-old law designed to require an independent hand audit of California's election results," said Debra Bowen, the Marina Del Ray Democrat who chairs the Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee and co-authored the bill.

"I wish the secretary of state and the county elections officials were as concerned about the accuracy and the integrity of the election results as they are with how quickly the ballots are counted," Bowen said in a prepared statement.

The governor's office has declined to discuss his position on the bill. He faces an Oct. 9 deadline to sign or veto it.

Paper trails are mandatory in 25 states and legislation is under consideration in 14 states.

Civil-rights advocates were less impressed with the Carter-Baker report, saying the panel didn't go far enough in encouraging voter participation.

The commission shied from recommending voting rights for convicted felons on probation or parole. Nor did the panel recommend same-day registration or a single, national standard on the handling of provisional ballots, a matter of controversy in the 2004 elections. Those ideas are likely to bring more voters to the polls, according to the Chief Justice Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law.

Contact Ian Hoffman at ihoffman@dailyreviewonline.com.