OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 55 (as amended by Senate “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING VOTER REGISTRATION, CERTAIN NOMINATING PROCEDURES, CAMPAIGN ACCOUNTABILITY, A VOTER GUIDE, PUSH POLLING AND ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES

SUMMARY:

This bill modifies existing and creates new voting and campaign procedures. Generally, it:

1. sets standards for direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) and establishes procedures for elections and primaries that use them;

2. expands the campaign attribution law to cover radio, television, and Internet advertisements;

3. requires the secretary of the state to prepare and publish an online voter guide;

4. requires the secretary of the state to provide voter registration services at certain naturalization ceremonies;

5. exempts from disclosure certain voter registration information;

6. eliminates the provision for holding a primary before an election to fill congressional or multitown judge of probate vacancies, replacing it with a new calendar and process for filling such vacancies; and

7. requires a study on push polling.

*Senate Amendment “A” (1) defines “electronic summary screen” and uses consistent language to describe the two types of paper records required: (a) an elector’s contemporaneously produced, individual, permanent, voter-verified paper record and (b) the machine generated, individual permanent, paper record; (2) allows the secretary of the state to approve a DRE machine that fails to comply with the bill’s accessibility requirements for the blind and visually impaired if such a DRE machine is unavailable at that time; (3) deletes from the original file a requirement that a PAC and party committee ad on television, radio, or the Internet include the identity of the person who approved it; and (4) eliminates the primary before an election to fill a U. S. representative in Congress or multitown judge of probate vacancy.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except for (1) voter registration at naturalization ceremonies, which is effective on July 1, 2005 and (2) changes in campaign attribution requirements and preparation of the voter guide, which are effective on January 1, 2006.

VOTING MACHINES ( 7 & 8)

The bill requires the secretary of the state to consider standards that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) adopts pursuant to the federal Help America Vote Act ((HAVA) (P. L. 107-252)) or those that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) adopts, whichever are most current, when she approves voting machines for use in Connecticut (see BACKGROUND). Under current law, she is only required to consider the FEC’s standards.

DRE Operations

The bill establishes requirements that DREs used in elections or primaries occurring on or after July 1, 2005 meet minimum standards. They must:

1. produce a contemporaneous individual, permanent, paper record of each voter’s selections and a voting machine-generated, individual, permanent, paper record after the polls close, both with an identical voting machine-generated unique identifier that can be matched against the other and that preserves the secrecy of each elector’s ballot;

2. permit voters to verify their contemporaneously produced paper record as reflected on a DREs’ screen (“electronic summary screen”), or to hear an audio description of the screen, and make changes or corrections before casting their ballot;

3. void the first contemporaneously produced paper record and produce another in the event that an elector changes his ballot, and provide that person with another opportunity to verify his selections;

4. provide that ballots are considered cast when (a) an elector’s contemporaneously produced, individual, permanent, voter-verified paper record is deposited into a receptacle designed to store the paper records and (b) his votes are simultaneously electronically recorded inside the voting machine;

5. secure the secrecy of each elector’s ballot while he is (a) selecting his ballot preferences, (b) verifying his vote, (c) changing or correcting his choices, and (d) casting his ballot, as well as during any canvass, recanvass, or tally of all electors’ ballots whether manually or electronically; and

6. ensure accessibility to blind or visually impaired individuals by providing each elector with an audio description, if desired, of the contemporaneously produced individual, permanent, paper record in addition to an audio description of the electronic summary screen.

The bill authorizes the secretary to approve a DRE for purchase or lease that does not comply with the above accessibility provision if (1) she determines that at that particular time no DREs are available that comply; (2) the DRE meets all of the bill’s other standards; and (3) the applicant agrees, by reference in the contract, to (a) modify any previously sold or leased DRE if the secretary notifies him that modifications exist to bring the machine into compliance and (b) provide only DREs that comply with the accessibility provision after the secretary’s notification.

Election Procedures When DREs Are Used

The bill establishes procedures and extends existing procedures that apply to elections and primaries in which DREs are used. The procedures:

1. allow individuals with disabilities to request assistance inside the voting booth (which they can do under current law);

2. require all votes, including those cast on DREs, to be tallied at the polling place immediately following the close of the polls with the printout of a DRE machine attached to the tally sheets;

3. allow any member of the public to observe the canvass of the votes (which they can do under current law);

4. require a manual recount of the individual, permanent, voter-verified paper records if a recanvass is needed for a particular candidate or question;

5. establish the contemporaneously produced, individual, permanent, voter-verified paper records as the official record of each elector’s vote if a manual recount does not reconcile with the electronic vote tabulation;

6. match any damaged contemporaneously produced, individual, permanent, voter-verified paper records with the voting machine-generated, individual, permanent paper records bearing the identical unique identifier and use them as the official records;

7. allow the secretary of the state to order a discrepancy recanvass for a federal, state, or district office if she has reason to believe that it could affect the outcome of the election or primary;

8. require registrars of voters to conduct a manual audit, within five days after each election or primary, of at least two randomly selected DREs in each assembly district;

9. require the contemporaneously produced, individual, permanent, voter-verified paper records to be preserved in their designated receptacle for 180 days and 22 months following an election or primary involving municipal, district, and state or federal offices, respectively;

10. stipulate that candidates and electors retain their rights to existing remedies in a contested election or primary; and

11. allow the court or the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) to order machines (a) locked for a period longer than that required by law or (b) audited.

DRE Audit Procedures

The bill requires a manual audit of at least two DREs per assembly district, selected through random drawing, within five days of each election or primary. It designates the registrars of voters or their designees representing at least two political parties as the auditors after an election. After a primary, the registrars of voters of the affiliated party designate two or more people, one of whom may be the registrar, representing at least two candidates as the auditors. No audit is required if the machines are subject to a recanvass.

The random drawing must be announced in advance, open to the public, and use a selection method that the secretary determines and publicly announces.

The audit consists of a manual tally of a machine’s contemporaneously produced, individual, permanent, voter-verified paper records compared with its electronic vote tabulation. If a voter-verified paper record is damaged, the audit officials must instead use the matching voting machine generated, individual, permanent, paper record. The bill requires the officials to prepare a reconciliation sheet, comparing the tabulations and listing any discrepancies, and file it with the town clerk and the secretary of the state. The sheet is open to the public and may be used as prima facie evidence of a discrepancy in a contested election or primary. If the audit officials are unable to reconcile the manual count with the electronic vote tabulation and discrepancies, the secretary of the state must conduct an investigation to review the machine’s certification qualifications, and may order a recanvass.

CAMPAIGN ACCOUNTABILITY ( 4)

By law, written, typed, and other printed political communications paid for by people or committees cooperating with, in consultation with, or acting at the request of a candidate or his agent or committee to promote or defeat a candidate must include an attribution.

The bill expands the attribution law. It extends to written Internet-based campaign communications the requirement that they include the identity of the person who paid for it. This means, if the expenditure is made by (1) an individual, the person’s name and address; (2) a party committee, the committee’s name; and (3) other committees, the name of the committee and its campaign treasurer.

In addition to the required designation of the person or committee that pays for it, the bill expands the attribution for all communications by requiring them to include the identity of the person who approved it. The face of any printed literature must show “approved by” and, if the expenditure is made by (1) an individual with the cooperation of, at the request or suggestion of, or in consultation with any candidate or his committee or agent, the individual’s name or (2) a candidate committee, the candidate’s name. Like existing attribution requirements, the bill’s provisions do not apply to (1) unsolicited, freely published newspaper, magazine, or journal editorials, news stories, or commentary; (2) banners; (3) political paraphernalia; or (4) signs under 32 square feet.

The bill also requires television and Internet video communications to show images and readable and personal messages of approval from the candidate. Radio and Internet audio communications must include a personal, audio message from the person.

Table 1 shows the bill’s new attribution requirements.

TABLE 1: ATTRIBUTION REQUIREMENTS

Agent

Television/Internet Video

Radio/Internet Audio

Candidate or his committee

Clearly identifiable image of the candidate

Clearly readable statement identifying him and indicating that he approves the message

Personal audio message stating “I am… (candidate’s name) and I approved this message”

Personal audio message by the candidate indicating his name, the office he is seeking, and his approval of the message by stating “I am…(candidate’s name) and I approved this message”

VOTER GUIDE ( 5)

The bill requires the secretary of the state, in consultation with the SEEC and within available appropriations, to prepare and publish on the Internet a voter guide for each state election. She must complete it by October 1 in each state election year.

The voter guide must include:

1. the date of the election and hours the polls will be open;

2. the name, party affiliation, and contact information of each candidate for the offices of U. S. President and vice-president, U. S. senator and representative, the six state constitutional offices, and the state legislature;

3. maps showing the current boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts;

4. a description of each office to be filled;

5. an absentee ballot application form in printable format with instructions on how to vote by absentee ballot;

6. a voter registration form in printable format with information on voter registration procedures;

7. the text of each proposed constitutional amendment, if any, and the explanatory text for it; and

8. the text of the Voter’s Bill of Rights.

The bill authorizes the secretary of the state, in consultation with the SEEC, to adopt regulations that implement the preparation and publication of the voter guide but she cannot authorize the inclusion of information beyond what is specified in the bill.

VOTER REGISTRATION ( 1 & 2)

The bill requires the secretary of the state, within available appropriations and in consultation with registrars of voters and nonprofit organizations, to provide voter registration services at naturalization ceremonies for 25 or more people.

The bill exempts from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act information submitted as part of a mail-in voter registration application with the exception of the applicant’s name, address, date of birth, and telephone number. The law allows a person who applies by mail to register for the first time in Connecticut to submit as part of his application (1) a copy of a current and valid photo identification; (2) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or government document showing his name and address; (3) a valid Connecticut driver's license number; or (4) the last four digits of his Social Security number. A person who does not submit a form of identification with his registration application must do so when voting for the first time at a federal election, or cast a provisional ballot.

NOMINATING PROCEDURES ( 3)

The bill eliminates the provision for holding a primary before an election held to fill a vacancy in the office of U. S. representative in Congress or judge of probate in a multitown district. It replaces the schedule for (1) issuing writs of election, depending on when the vacancy occurs; (2) selecting convention delegates; and (3) holding a primary for contesting candidates with a process and calendar for filling such a vacancy.

Under the bill, an election to fill congressional or multitown judge of probate vacancies must occur at least 63 days after the governor issues the writs of election. If a vacancy occurs between 125 and 66 days before a regular state election, the governor must issue the writs 63 days before the day of the state election, ordering the election to fill the vacancy to also be held on that day.

If the vacancy occurs between 65 days before the regular state election and the Wednesday following the first Monday of January of the next year, the governor does not issue the writs and no election is held (unless the vacant position is that of a member-elect, in which case a special election is held).

In the event of a vacancy in these offices, the bill repeals the provision in current law for holding a primary to nominate a party’s candidate. The convention delegates who met to endorse candidates for the previous state election must meet to nominate the party’s candidate to fill the vacancy. If there is a vacancy among the delegates, the appropriate town committee (in the town or political subdivision or district where the delegate lived) fills it. Political parties must certify their nomination at least 35 days before the election.

PUSH POLLING ( 6)

The bill requires the SEEC to conduct a study of the use of push polling in Connecticut campaigns. By February 1, 2006, it must submit a report to the Government Administration and Elections Committee on its findings, conclusions, and any recommended legislation.

The bill defines “push poll” as a paid telephone survey or series of surveys that are similar in nature and reference a candidate or group of candidates other than in a basic preference question. Additionally, in a push poll:

1. the polling organization uses a list or directory to select respondents based on demographic or political information such as race, age, sex, ethnicity, party affiliation, or like characteristics;

2. the survey fails to ask demographic questions such as age, household income, or status as a likely voter sufficient to tabulate results based on a relevant subset of the population consistent with standard polling industry practices;

3. the pollster or polling organization does not collect or tabulate survey results;

4. the survey prefaces a question regarding support for a candidate on the basis of an untrue statement; and

5. the survey’s primary purpose is to suppress or change the call recipient’s voting position.

BACKGROUND

Help America Vote Act

Congress passed HAVA in October of 2002 as a package of federally ordered election improvements. Under HAVA ( 301), the technology and administration of every voting system used in federal elections must meet uniform and nondiscriminatory requirements. Beginning January 1, 2006, all voting systems must:

1. permit voters to verify their selections on their ballot, notify them of overvotes, and permit them to make changes or correct an error before casting the ballot;

2. produce a permanent paper record for the voting system that can be manually audited and is available as an official record for recounts;

3. provide individuals with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired, the same accessibility to voting while maintaining voter privacy and ballot confidentiality through the use of at least one DRE or properly equipped voting system at each polling place;

4. provide alternative language accessibility, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and

5. comply with the error rate standards in the federal voting system standards in effect on October 29, 2002.

Legislative History

The Senate referred the bill (File 231) to the Appropriations Committee on April 26, which favorably reported it on May 2.

Related Bill

sHB 6669 (File 233), An Act Concerning Prevention of Absentee Voting Violation and Greater Accountability for Absentee Voting Compliance, which the Government Administration and Elections Committee reported favorably on March 23, establishes a voting technology standards board for electronic voting machines.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

19

Nay

1

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

41

Nay

5