MD bill pushes for paper trail but provides no funds

Paper trail bill, with no teeth and not in time for '08, is unnecessary, say election officials.

The Maryland House passed a bill to require electronic voting machines to boast printers, The Washington Post reports but the proposal could founder on a budget shortfall.

While the bill would have Maryland join the 27 states that already require paper receipts, it doesn't require paper records in time for next year's presidential election and allocates no funds to put a system in place.

"If people are not going to vote because they don't trust the machines, that's not in the state's best interest or the voters' interest," said Del. Sheila E. Hixson, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. "We feel we've given the Board of Elections enough time to do this."

The bill targets the next election for governor, in 2010. But it's up to the governor to set aside $20 million to pay for the printers. If he doesn't, the mandate disappears.

The Maryland Senate is considering a companion measure. Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller Jr. called it a "positive step" that is likely to pass but said the bill would have few teeth without funding.

Election officials said the measure isn't necessary.

"We've done a lot of work to make sure the system we have now is secure and reliable," said Ross Goldstein, the deputy election administrator. "But we understand that policymakers are interested in making a change."

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