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Ney Rebuffs Dean’s Push for Paper Trail

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) on Tuesday rejected a demand by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) for voter-verified paper-trail balloting, telling the former Democratic presidential candidate that “left-wing groups” like America Coming Together and Dean’s Democracy for America were exploiting the issue to inflame their supporters and raise money.

In a statement that was among the clearest indications yet of Ney’s opposition to a mandated paper trail for ballots, the Ohio Congressman wrote, “You should realize that if your demands to retrofit all electronic voting machines with printers before November, 2004, were met, it would ensure an electoral meltdown that would make our last presidential election look orderly by comparison.”

Ney — who chairs the House Administration Committee, which has oversight of election-related issues — also told Dean in a letter that the arguments of paper-trail proponents “can be boiled down to one central assertion, i.e., that paper ballots are the only way to ensure an accurate election.”

Ney labeled such claims as reckless and “unsupported by the facts.”

“You should recall that the ballots cast in Florida in November 2000 were cast on paper,” Ney argued. “Furthermore, every documented episode of election fraud in our nation’s history has been perpetrated through the manipulation of paper ballots.”

In his June 22 letter to Ney and other Members of Congress, Dean stated that because some voting machines do not allow voters to verify their choices, “any flaws in the machine or software will never be caught — and no recount will be possible.”

Referring to the voting machine manufacturer Diebold, Dean noted that the “head of the largest e-voting machine company — who is a major contributor to George Bush and has promised to deliver Ohio to him — asks that we just trust him.”

Just last week, Diebold’s board of directors amended its corporate ethics policy to prohibit its top executives from making political donations of any kind.

Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobsen told The Associated Press that neither Diebold nor its chairman, Walden O’Dell, had made any political contributions since October 2003 and that O’Dell had personally spearheaded the policy change.

In his response to Dean, Ney added that the Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology were examining issues related to the security of electronic voting.

“That is the appropriate way to handle this issue, not by making uninformed and premature legislative decisions based on misinformation and hysteria,” Ney wrote.

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