Electronic voting equipment; requirements and recount procedures. (SB840)

Introduced By

Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Vienna) with support from co-patron Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Election procedures; voting equipment requirements; random postelection audits of equipment; and recounts. Requires localities to use optical scan tabulator systems. The bill requires the State Board of Elections to develop accommodations for disabled voters and limits the use of direct recording electronic (DRE) devices to marking ballots that can be optically scanned. The bill prohibits any form of wireless electronic communication capability on any voting or counting device. The bill requires State Board of Elections to develop procedures to enable local electoral boards to conduct postelection audits of at least two percent of machines in jurisdictions with 50,000 or more registered voters and at least five percent of machines in jurisdictions with fewer than 50,000 registered voters. The bill requires the random selection for auditing of a representative sample of vote counting machines within 48 hours of public announcement of initial vote counts and prohibits certifying results until audits are completed. The bill provides that paper records control in the event of a significant discrepancy, defined as a difference of more than one-tenth of one percent between the hand counted total and the initial machine tally. The bill requires local electoral boards to publicly announce comparative results. The bill requires recount officials as part of the recount proceedings to randomly audit three percent of voting devices using State Board of Elections standards for hand recounts. A discrepancy exceeding one-tenth of one percent requires extending the audit to all precincts. The bill deletes obsolete references to mechanical voting equipment and punchcard devices and takes effect January 1, 2009. Read the Bill »


04/10/2007: signed by governor


01/05/2007Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/10/07 075559726
01/05/2007Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/24/2007Committee substitute printed 075586726-S1
01/25/2007Constitutional reading dispensed (39-Y 0-N)
01/26/2007Read second time
01/26/2007Reading of substitute waived
01/26/2007Committee substitute agreed to 075586726-S1
01/26/2007Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute SB840S1
01/29/2007Read third time and passed Senate (36-Y 4-N)
01/29/2007Communicated to House
02/04/2007Impact statement from DPB (SB840S1)
02/05/2007Placed on Calendar
02/05/2007Read first time
02/05/2007Referred to Committee on Science and Technology
02/12/2007Referred from Science and Technology
02/12/2007Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
02/13/2007Assigned P & E sub: #2 (Jones, S.C.)
02/16/2007Reported from Privileges and Elections with substitute (21-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/16/2007Committee substitute printed 075623726-H1
02/19/2007Read second time
02/20/2007Read third time
02/20/2007Committee substitute agreed to 075623726-H1
02/20/2007Engrossed by House - committee substitute SB840H1
02/20/2007Passed House with substitute (86-Y 12-N)
02/20/2007VOTE: PASSAGE (86-Y 12-N) (see vote tally)
02/21/2007Impact statement from DPB (SB840H1)
02/22/2007House substitute agreed to by Senate (36-Y 3-N)
02/22/2007VOTE: (36-Y 3-N) (see vote tally)
03/07/2007Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB840ER)
03/07/2007Signed by Speaker
03/08/2007Signed by President
03/26/2007Governor's recommendation received by Senate
04/03/2007Placed on Calendar
04/04/2007Signed by President as reenrolled
04/04/2007Signed by Speaker as reenrolled
04/04/2007Enacted, Chapter (effective 7/1/07)
04/04/2007Senate concurred in Governor's recommendation (29-Y 11-N) (see vote tally)
04/04/2007House rejected Governor's recommendation (49-Y 49-N)
04/04/2007VOTE: ADOPTION (49-Y 49-N) (see vote tally)
04/04/2007Communicated to Governor
04/10/2007G Approved by Governor-Chapter 943 (effective 7/1/07)
04/12/2007G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0943)


Charles Crist writes:

This is an unnecessary bill proposed to satisfy technology Luddites. Taxpayers have spent MILLIONS $$$ for DRI's per the Federal "Help America Vote Act" which was passed (prematurely) to statisfy those who saw conspiracies rampant in a few voting precincts. Now, as a knee jerk reaction, this Bill invokes "voting system integrity" to require a paper trail and audit actions that lead one to question the integrity of the touch screen systems, without even suggesting the cost of such "improvements" or stating how they would be paid for! I cannot believe the Senate adopted this bill without an understanding of the cost and effectiveness of their proposed "solution". Obviouslym this is a "feel good" bill to satisfy a few vocal voters who see conspiracies around every corner. Paper trails are also fraught with potential abuse....show me your paper vote and win a bottle of whiskey or some other treat of choice. I suggest that senators and delegates visit their Electoral Board and Registrar to personnaly witness the care and fail-safe methods taken in setting up and testing the DRIs before adopting unneeded and costly legislation such as this.

Jim E-H writes:

Contrary to your rant, this is not an issue for Luddites; computer professionals like myself who best understand the risks involved are the ones fighting for verified voting. No conspiracy theories are necessary; voting machines are custom programmed on a tight schedule for every election. Anyone who has worked in software knows that software produced under those conditions is of questionable reliability.

Our elections officials do their jobs very well, but setting up and testing the machines cannot verify that they are recording votes accurately. I served on the recount for the 2005 Attorney General's race, and it consisted of checking the register tapes printed by the machines and making sure the totals had been written down correctly. A "full" recount would have consisted of having the machine print out its record of individual ballots, again with no independent confirmation that its electronic records were correct.

You complain about cost, but paper ballots are routinely in use in countries far less wealthy than ours; do you really think we can't afford verifiable elections? And finally, it is telling that your only example of "potential abuse" with paper ballots is one that was solved literally decades ago; paper ballots serve as the official record, they are not given to the voter to take home.

Rick Sincere writes:

Based on my experience as an election official (I currently serve as Secretary on the Electoral Board for the City of Charlottesville), I oppose this legislation in its current form.

First, the legislation is premature. We may be facing new election law mandates through federal legislation, and we don't know what those will look like. We may end up having to rewrite the whole law again next year or in 2009.

Second, this is an unfunded mandate of at least $30 million distributed among Virginia's counties and cities. Most localities invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in new voting equipment over the past five years, equipment with a lifetime of 15-20 years. This legislation says all that new equipment must be discarded and replaced with equipment that was quite likely considered by local Electoral Boards and rejected. (That was certainly the case in Charlottesville.)

Third, this is a solution in search of a problem. In the more than two decades that electronic voting machines have been in use, there has never been a verified case of tampering. Other problems that have arisen invariably turn out to be based on human error -- the machines are not the problem.

I urge our legislators to go slow, be deliberate, and reject SB 840 and its companion bill, HB 2707. This issue can be revisited in the future, if necessary, but now is not the time to rush.