Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Bill delays changes to N.J. voting machines

The deadline to add paper printers to the electronic equipment would be scrapped.

TRENTON - New Jersey elections officials have asked the Legislature for time to reconsider spending $26 million to attach paper printers to 10,000 electronic voting machines.

The printers would allow voters to see their recorded votes, but would not give them paper receipts.

Legislation that the Assembly State Government Committee advanced on Thursday would scrap a Jan. 1 deadline to have all the machines fitted with printers.

The proposal instead would authorize fitting touch-screen voting machines in one municipality with the printers for the June primary, then studying how they work.

Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D., Bergen) said she had sponsored the proposal after a demonstration of the voting-machine technology "appalled" her.

"I do not think this is a user-friendly operation," she said. "This is a retrofitting designed to fit the budget rather than the consumer's needs."

New Jersey's voting machines were supposed to have paper receipts by now under a legislative deadline. Lawmakers have extended the deadline twice, including once after New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers found flaws in paper printers for the machines.

Robert Giles, director of the state Division of Elections, said the technology had not been developed when the law requiring retrofitting was passed in 2005.

"The technology is catching up to the law," he said, "but it isn't necessarily what we thought it was going to be. I think we need to take a step back."

Giles said the pilot project would cost about $1 million, compared with $26 million to retrofit all the machines. Without the legislation, he said, the division will have to use the substandard technology.

He also said New Jersey would be willing to consider other voting options, such as returning to paper ballots counted by optical scanners and vote-by-mail.

A group of voting advocates has sued the state to halt electronic voting, saying the machines are unreliable and can be easily hacked. They had advocated paper receipts, but now seek a return to paper balloting.

More than 20 states have scrapped electronic voting machines. Elections officials in states including California, Florida and Ohio cited server issues, printer problems, questions about whether correct votes are being registered, and even hacking concerns.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R., Monmouth) criticized the proposed delay and abstained from the committee vote.

"In the three years since the law mandating a paper trail be created to serve as a backup to electronic voting we have seen nothing but delays and excuses," she said.