Last Tuesday at the California Assembly Elections committee hearing,AB 19 by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) was heard and passed on a 4-3 vote. If enacted, the bill would create a California online voting pilot program. Over the weekend, while cleaning out some old papers, I had deja vu moment when I came across a December 4, 2000 news release issued by then-Assembly Majority Leader Kevin Shelley announcing the introduction of AB 55, which among other things, as originally introduced would have established an online voting pilot program under the direction of the Secretary of State. That provision was ultimately amended out, and Mr. Shelley would go on to become the Secretary of State of California and one of the nation’s first political leaders to support a voter verified paper audit trail and mandatory election recounts.
Shelley, who today serves on the board of Verified Voting, is one of many politicians who activists and technologists have worked with over the years to help expand understanding of the risks and opportunities technology can bring to the voting process.
When I saw AB 19, my first thought was, “Here we go again.” Every election there is a new crop of politicians, some of whom think Internet voting is like any other governmental process that can be migrated online. It isn’t. And it can’t. And that’s why so many people showed up at the Assembly Elections committee hearing to testify against AB 19.
The committee analysis is very detailed and provides an excellent overview of California’s recent efforts to upgrade and modernize our voting systems as well as the historic work of California’s 1999 Internet Voting Task Force, upon which I served as a member.
The bill was opposed by a variety of good government and election reform groups, including California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Verified Voting, computer scientist and California Voter Foundation board member David Jefferson, and many activists from local political clubs and groups. Only one witness spoke in support and only one letter of support was on file with the committee, provided by Everyone Counts which produces and sells online voting systems.