An urgent letter has been sent today to the Governors, Secretaries of State and State Election Directors of all 50 states urging them to immediately create and implement plans and procedures for allowing the use of Emergency Paper Ballots at every local jurisdiction during this November's general election.
The missive, signed by a broad coalition of more than 50 Election Integrity Advocate groups, congressional members, elections officials, computer scientists, attorneys and journalists comes on the heels of Federal legislation recently introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. Those bills, which were not brought up for a vote before Congress adjourned for the Election Recess, called for funding to states who implement plans to provide Emergency Paper Ballots. The legislation was introduced in the wake of recent primary elections around the country where voters were unable to cast a vote due to failure, malfunction, or other inability of electronic voting systems.
The two-page letter [PDF] (also posted in full at the end of this article) was signed by individuals such as: Sen. Barbara Boxer, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Rush Holt, Leon County, FL Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, OH elections attorney Cliff Arnebeck and University of Iowa computer scientist Doug Jones. Organizations signed on include: Common Cause, VerifiedVoting.org, VotersUnite.org, BlackBoxVoting.org, VoterAction.org, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, MoveOn.org, TrueMajorityAction.org and many other national, state and local Election Integrity advocate groups.
"No legally registered voter should ever be told to 'come back later,' or be forced to use a provisional ballot simply because a voting system is unavailable to them at the time they are able to vote," the letter reads. "It is imperative that an ample supply of Emergency Paper Ballots be made available to account for any unforeseen circumstance."
The letter continues, "All voters must have the option to vote on an Emergency Paper Ballot if necessary and all such ballots must be counted as regular --- not provisional --- ballots."
As well, it's pointed out that some states already have certain procedures required by law to ensure that registered voters are allowed to vote, in the event that primary balloting procedures break down. Officials are urged to check those requirements and otherwise "draft, establish and publicize your own state's common-sense plans for Emergency Paper Ballots at every polling place this Nov. 7th, so that every election official, poll worker, and voter may be crystal clear on the procedures for utilizing such measures."
The movement calling on states to create Emergency Paper Ballot plans began just three weeks ago when The BRAD BLOG first called on the U.S. Congress to introduce and pass legislation in order to ensure that legally registered voters would not be turned away from the polls without being allowed to vote, as has been the case for thousands of voters in a number of states this year due to voting machines that failed to start up, were misprogrammed, failed during voting or, in some cases, hadn't been brought to polling places at all until several hours after polls were to have opened.
Many voters were either told to "come back later" or given Provisional Ballots, which are not counted as normal ballots on Election Night and frequently not counted at all.
Legislation for Emergency Ballots was introduced the following week in the U.S. Senate by Senators Boxer, Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold and Kerry. A matching House version was filed the next day by Rep. Rush Holt and co-sponsored by 28 other House members. As well, Feingold and Kerry introduced a "Sense of the Senate" resolution calling for same, but that effort was also never brought up for a vote on the floor before the recess.
The letter, drafted by this journalist along with a number of other signatories, was sent to all recipients via return-receipt requested certified mailing this morning by VelvetRevolution.us. [DISCLOSURE: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR.]
With the failure of Congress to pass such crucial legislation prior to this November's important general election, the effort now moves to the State and Local level. Organizations and individuals are called on to contact their State and Local Elections officals to assure that plans are in place to accommodate any and all unforeseen circumstances.
Alluding to Americans who have fought for and defended the right to vote in the past, and indeed to this day around the globe, the letter concludes: "Our vote is our precious franchise. We believe it is worth defending, and worth the effort to guarantee that that right remains assured and inviolate."
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), one of the initial signatories, has created an online petition for citizens to urge their Secretaries of State and Governors to ensure such plans and procedures are created and implemented immediately. Take action by clicking here...
The open letter, sent to all State Governors, Secretaries of State and State Election Directors calling for Emergency Paper Ballot plans and procedures and signed by 55 organizations and individuals, can be downloaded here [PDF]. It also follows below in full...