Last updated on: 10/26/2010 | Author:

Does the Help America Vote Act of 2002 in Effect Mandate the Use of Electronic Voting Machines?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) is Public Law 107-252. Section 301 (PDF) 7.1KB addressed accessibility for individuals with disabilities and specifically discusses electronic voting machines. This section of the law stated:

“The voting system shall:

  • (A) be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters;
  • (B) satisfy the requirement of subparagraph (A) through the use of at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities at each polling place.”
2002 - 2002 Help America Vote Act

PRO (yes)


Congressional Research Service’s Report for Congress from 2003 entitled “Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues,” stated:

“The Act [Help America Vote Act of 2002] requires, beginning in 2006, that each polling place used in a federal election have at least one voting machine that is fully accessible for persons with disabilities. DREs [direct recording electronic voting machines] are the only machines at present that can fulfill the accessibility requirement.”

2003 - Congressional Research Service


The Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s Election Law Committee released the May 2003 “Report of the Election Law Committee: Subcommittee on New Voting Technology,” which stated:

“Advocates for the disabled stress the importance of voting systems which permit the handicapped to participate in the communal act of voting at the polls on Election Day. HAVA (as well as the ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act]) also requires that any new voting technology allow this…

ATM type touch screen voting systems permit the visually impaired to vote without assistance at the polls on Election Day through an audio interface. Competing technologies (e.g., optical scan, punch card, mechanical lever) do not. Any new voting technology for New York must permit full handicapped accessibility.”

May 2003 - Association of the Bar of the City of New York


People for the American Way stated in an article titled “Protecting the Integrity and Accessibility of Voting in 2004 and Beyond (PDF) 73KB provided in an email to on March 2004:

“The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) highlights the importance of making voting systems accessible to all communities, especially those historically disenfranchised…

Direct Recording Electronic voting systems (DREs) are the most versatile and user-friendly of any available voting system. Each machine can easily be programmed to display ballots in different languages and can be made fully accessible for persons with disabilities. Optical scan, punchcard and lever machines cannot easily accommodate different languages, and because punchcard and optical scan machines are paper systems, they are not fully accessible for the blind or visually impaired. Similarly, the mechanical nature of lever machines impedes accessibility for voters with limited mobility and strength. For these reasons, People for the American Way believes that DREs are the best available voting system at this time.”

March 2004 - People for the American Way

CON (no)


Steny Hoyer (D-MD), U.S. House Democratic Minority Whip and chief sponsor of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, commented in a 2003 interview for the Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:

“We found the punch cards to be more error prone than any other of the technologies available, and clearly we were intent on getting rid of the punch cards, but we did not…mandate any particular technology for communities to choose as an alternative.”

2003 - Steny Hoyer, JD


Ellen Theisen, CEO of the Vote-PAD Company, wrote in her 2005 report “Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections”:

“Voting systems that record votes electronically (Direct Recording Electronic – DRE) are only one of the many available voting systems that provide accessibility for disabled individuals. Alternative voting systems that allow the disabled to vote unassisted are available…For example electronic ballot-marking devices, such as the AutoMARK by Election Systems and Software (ES&S); the Vote-PAD, a non-electronic accessible device for marking paper ballots; and free ballot-printing software offered by Open Voting Consortium to run on PC Systems.”

2005 - Ellen Theisen, MA


The National Committee for Voting Integrity gave testimony before the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on May 5, 2004. They stated in their testimony:

“HAVA does not require DREs. Optical-scan based systems are HAVA compliant…Typically, a voter using an optical scan system receives a paper ballot along with a marking pen or pencil…Voters who are visually impaired or require ballots in a foreign language can use tactile ballots or a computerized optical scan ballot-marking machine with attached headphones. Such a machine would allow all voters, including blind voters, to confirm or verify their ballot choices [HAVA also requires that voters be able to verify their selections and change them if necessary] by sliding the ballot into a computerized reader with attached headphones. In addition to repeating the voter’s choices through the earphones, the reader can alert the voter to errors on the ballot, such as skipping a race or voting for too many candidates in one race, and allow the voter to fix these errors in private.”

May 5, 2004 - National Committee for Voter Integrity